OPINION: There’s always room for healthy debate

Columnist Vanessa Moberg talks about returning to university after several years and the learning how to think critically.

Vanessa Moberg

Special to the Tribune/Advisor

After a 15-year hiatus, I went back to university this summer and learned something very important: higher education doesn’t necessarily teach you WHAT to think, it teaches you HOW to think.

In this short six-week course, we were assigned several research projects, but asked to cite credible academic or journalistic sources only.

We were challenged to formulate opinions, then were promptly asked to explore the other side of the debate.

We were required to work closely with our peers. We listened, we discussed, and listened some more.

This was just a marketing course, but what I learned about “learning” almost eclipsed what I learned about marketing.

I think knowledge is important, but true wisdom means becoming humble. There are often merits and truths to both sides of any given debate.

Now don’t get me wrong. Facts are extremely important. Case in point: several famous NBA basketball players have recently announced they believe the world to be flat. I guess from their heightened vantage point they are able to see over the edge?

In 2016, Newt Gingrich stated that the average American does not believe that violent crime is down – even though he admitted that statistically it is – and the Republican Party’s platform would be based on what Americans “feel,” not on what is true.

Many of us formulate opinions first, and then build our informational networks around these opinions, finding proof at every turn that we are “right.”

I am one of these people. I am so impassioned by the green movement that it’s all I read.

My like-minded sister-in-law recently challenged me to start paying attention, just occasionally, to news sources that are contrary to my own beliefs – if only to understand our fellow humans. I’ve tried this and, well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

So how does this tie into conservation? At the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society, we don’t believe in taking an us-versus-them approach.

That only escalates to ussier and themmier. How’s that for using educated words?

We believe that there’s always a place for informed opinion, healthy debate, and critical thinking – but we also believe that these things should be practiced with the aim of understanding the other’s point of view, finding common ground, and moving forward in the same direction.

I think we can all agree that there is only one Earth, and it’s worth protecting. We can also agree that a productive economy is the foundation of a vibrant society.

However, striking a healthy balance between these two things is at once difficult and gravely important. And this is where education comes in, where our ability to think critically, rationally, objectively, and compassionately is more important than ever.

As we head back into another school year, my resolution is to shout less and listen more.

Conservation Tip of the Month: Get out to the Williams Lake Farmers Market or Cariboo Growers Co-op to take advantage of the colourful bounty of the season and say hello to neighbours and friends.

Vanessa Moberg is a co-ordinator and sustainable life educator with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.