Facts & Opinions.
Hopefully you know how to differentiate between them. No? Well this should help then.
It is a fact that my weight is closer to 100 kg than 70 kg. It is someone’s opinion that I am a fat slob! I will not say who, but they know 😀
There. Now you know the difference. But, I want you to go one step further. How do we use facts? In our thinking. In our conversations. In our decision making.
Typically, most of use only those facts that are suitable to our point of view. In effect, our point of view, may influence what facts that we look for, and make us discard the inconvenient ones. Rare are those humans, who are capable of looking at all facts, and then alter their point of view accordingly.
One reason for this not being a strong point amongst us in India is our schooling system. It encourages being “right” over being “different”. Compliance is the key. We encourage debates to choose a winner, not a solution. We encourage the habit of looking at facts selectively.
So, what could be done differently?
There is not much emphasis given to teaching students on how to solve problems taking into account all the facts, as well as opinions, available. This approach has been codified by the famous Edward de Bono, through various approaches for thinking and acting (as in taking action), and these are available through books that are easy to understand.
I think it is Amartya Sen who has written in one of his books that ancient India was known for a debating style that was more inclusive. While, he has not connected this to whether the debates were based on facts or ideas alone, or a combination of both, but I would not at all be surprised to find a reference that is similar to the approach outlined by de Bono. Perhaps such an approach (let me know if you know of it) might be more acceptable to the educators in India. The key is to choose the appropriate weightage for facts, and for opinions. Include both, but try not to allow one to dominate the other.
So much so for the process. The real benefit of including this aspect in the teaching methodology will be seen in a few years time. As I see it, the more number of youngsters we have in this country who are able to avoid the trap of choosing facts selectively in the process of solving problems, the better are the chances that they will make more meaningful contribution (definitely more than me! hopefully more than you?) to the nation. Learning to deal with opinions, especially one’s different from own’s, should be a part of the learning
In a recent interview, Fali Nariman, the experienced lawyer, credited Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former PM, with the ability to take people along with him in the decision making process. If our polity could only learn from his legacy, and stop taking rigid stances, we could all benefit immensely.
So, what do you do when faced with inconvenient facts?
PS: I tried to get my sons to view all the facts about how their football club actually operates. Placed certain inconvenient facts about how the footballers they admire so much, could help subsidise the exorbitant ticket prices of the clubs they play for, by lowering their salaries, but choose not to. Not interested they said! 😉