Are facts and opinions equal when teaching your children to use their reason? Our parenting expert and lawyer, Michael Sabbeth, doesn't think so. He enjoyed visiting classrooms and asking the questions that made students think. Let's find out about one lively discussion.
Facts or Opinions
Today he is sharing his classroom discussion about the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Bugs Bunny. This is an excerpt from his book, The Good, The Bad, and the Difference.
One day, while my students were haranguing me with their opinion that I wasn't entitled to my opinion that rejected their opinion, I sought refuge in art to defend myself. I picked up a book on Italian art that happened to be lying on the teacher's desk. I leafed through the pages and found a photograph of Michelangelo's "God About to Touch and Give Life to Adam."
I knew I had found the evidence to make my point...
While the photograph was passed around the class, I drew an approximation of Bugs Bunny on the chalkboard, crooked teeth and floppy ears and all.
Which was the greater work of art, I asked, my Bugs Bunny or Michelangelo's "Touch of Life?"
Here are some student comments:
1. They're the same if you think they are.
2. You can't judge the difference.
3. One is no better than the other.
4. It's just your opinion.
I confess I was dismayed. This reasoning is darkly troublesome. Would they find no difference between freedom and slavery? Between representative democracy and totalitarian fascism? Between a culture that suppressed women and one that elevated them? Are those differences merely matters of opinion?
I was pulled back from the brink of despair when a few students said something like, "Are you nuts? The Sistine Chapel is much better!"
Abbie's critique rejecting the student's relativism was as poetic as it was profound. "The Sistine Ceiling represents something important. You judge it by the effort, the talent, the meaning of the art."
This quote has many qualities but one of the most significant is providing insight into the judgment, wisdom and expressive skill of young children.
Comparing the artistic qualities of the Sistine Ceiling with my haphazard drawing of Bugs Bunny might seem silly, but serious points can be made:
- First of all, to say comparisons are not possible because it's just a matter of opinion is a cowardly cop-out that avoids the hard work of thinking.
- There are differences between the two works.
- Those differences can be identified.
- They have artistic significance.
- Rational judgments can be made about them. (From pages 101-102)
Teaching kids to think means realizing facts count. Facts help make wise decisions.
When kids give opinions supported by facts, they are thinking. If they say, "It's just your opinion." They're being lazy. As parents and teachers, we need to ask the questions to get our children thinking because they are the decision makers of the future. Michael Sabbeth shows us how.
Pick up Michael Sabbeth's book, The Good The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk With Children About Values.
Available at Amazon.com
Let's HONOR Michael Sabbeth for his work with children. He knows how parents and teachers can help kids think right about values.
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