I didn't plan to be reading Richard III during this election season. But, since we're here, it's hard not to draw parallels and comparisons to the current political climate. Richard is a master of spin. Shakespeare presents this amazing ability of Richard's and we can hardly believe it ourselves - how can he do this? How does he get people to buy into his schemes? Such a fascinating lesson for all of us, I think. And we're only on Act II. It's interesting to ask the students what they think of Richard and to hear their opinions.
Well-thought-out opinions are a major theme in a Mason education. This whole process produces discerning, informed citizens. Rather important in any day and age. I remember the first time I read that she thought having a just opinion was akin to saving a life. She said, "The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he helped to save a life." The culture today doesn't reflect this sentiment very well with anyone and everyone spouting off how they feel or what they think about any given situation.
Voting is a right. But before that comes our duty to work out just opinions. This is where the real work lies.
In her fabulous chapter "Opinions: Justice in Thought", you will find an outline* for forming opinions which I have found helpful to think through when asked my opinion by others or when talking to my children. It is especially helpful if one of them throws out strong opinions (as teenagers are wont to do) that aren't solidly based.
First of all, you have to have previously thought about the subject and collected some knowledge about it.
Second, it really needs to be our own opinion and not the repeating of a fb meme or some other person's popular article.
Third, we need to at least try hard to look at it objectively.
Whew. That sounds like a lot of work and it is. But whether talking politics, personal relationships, or even working through matters of faith, we need to have those well-thought-out opinions. It's a critical skill WE need, as well as our children.
*An Opinion Worth Having
We may gather three rules, then, as to an opinion that is worth the having. We must have thought about the subject and know something about it, as a gardener does about the weather; it must be our own opinion, and not caught up as a parrot catches up its phrases; and lastly, it must be disinterested, that is, it must not be influenced by our inclination.
-From Ourselves, Book II, page 180.