With strongly held views, we are all liable to ignore evidence to the contrary. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to avoid this trap, and I think it comes down to one simple question.
What would it take to make you change your mind?
I ask myself the question often, and I think if you’re going to have a debate about anything at all, it has to be the first question. Because if your debate partner says, “There is nothing that would change my mind,” then continuing the conversation is futile. If, however, they are honest in considering their beliefs, then it is worth going on with the discussion.
Educators: it is our job to teach students to ask this question, and to be open to new ideas and viewpoints. If students finish high school with ossified brains, incapable of taking in alternative ideas and reconsidering stances, then we have failed as teachers.
For every strongly held belief I have, I try to ask and answer this question. I urge you to honestly do the same. And if we are talking about it, please expect to hear this question–and feel free to ask me.