Opinions evolve over time, so stay open to new ideas


Being opinionated got me this job.I’m not a journalism major, but my coursework doesn’t exactly leave me out of the loop: The English department taught me how to write, the philosophy department taught me how to use my critical reasoning skills and analyze arguments logically, and the French department, if nothing else, made it easier to read international news.

What I do on this page is try to find a variety of opinions, get a discussion going and stir up some interest.

I find that my opinions change slowly over the long run, but on specific issues, my views can change from day to day depending on what I read, what I hear, how informed I am or if I hear a good argument.

One of my most influential college moments took place freshman year in my introduction to philosophy class. My professor, Richard Galvin, had assigned a reading by John Stuart Mill about utilitarianism.

“How many of you like this idea?” he asked at the beginning of class.

Most of us raised our hands. We then discussed the readings and critiques of Mill other philosophers offered.

At the end of the next class, he asked, “How many of you still believe in utilitarianism?”

Only a handful of students responded affirmatively.

“Good,” he said, “and how long are you going to believe it?”

We all gave him blank stares. None of us really knew what he was asking.

“Until you hear a better argument, hold your opinion until you hear a better argument,” he said. I have held that tenant ever since.

As a college student, my opinions are still quite fluid. I am a very different person now, with very different beliefs, from when I was as an incoming freshman. I think this is good. I have learned much from my years here, and one of the things I have learned is how to think, which doesn’t mean I have the right answers or hold the right beliefs, but now I can tell a good argument from a bad one. And logical fallacies like “red herrings” and “poisoning the well” don’t trip me up anymore.

The articles here will give you the opportunity to explore other people’s ideas, arguments and beliefs to decide for yourself.

So what I am asking is that you keep an open mind.

I’m not printing articles here because I agree with them or even because I think they offer the best arguments but because I think stating opinions and being heard are very important parts of intellectual, social and political life.

The democratic process is based in free speech – freedom to believe what you wish, state your opinion and fight peaceably for what you believe.

This means we have an obligation not only to present our own opinions, but also to listen to the opinions of others and to compromise. Even forming our own belief systems and opinions requires compromise. For instance, I wrote an article last semester about the need for visitor’s parking on East Campus, something I still believe, but there are many other considerations: If we add more visitor’s parking, which parking spaces will be forfeited? How often will these new spaces go unused? How practical is the idea?

It is up to you to decide. Did I make my case? Is there really a need? Is there a way this change can be implemented without hurting anyone? And is it worth it?

If so, it is up to you readers to determine your level of interest. Do you care enough to storm Sadler Hall for visitor parking spaces? Will you bring it up to the Student Government Association? Will you write in to support my opinion in the Skiff? If you disagree, what will you do? Will you write a letter to the editor about it? Just ignore it?

Obviously visitor parking is a smaller issue than abortion, the death penalty, rights for homosexuals, political elections, etc., but it illustrates my point. Keep my anecdote in mind and listen. Maybe you’ll hear something new or something that makes you change your mind.

Benjamin Franklin, expressed his flexibility of opinion in his 1787 speech to the Constitutional Convention: “I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it, for, having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

Participate in this important process. Read the articles, see if you agree, hold us accountable, write us a letter. Tell us when our writers say something good, and let us know when you don’t agree with their arguments. Let’s make it a good semester.

Opinion Editor Stephanie Weaver is a senior English, philosophy and French major from Westwood, Kan.