To say or not to say...
This week my 13-year-old daughter (she'll be 14 on Friday!) asked me an interesting question..."Should people have an opinion on things they don't know about?"
My immediate response was of course not - people should only have opinions about things they know about. Seems reasonable, right?
As an Asian American woman who grew up in an island chain and migrated to the "mainland" to work as an academic, there is a lot people don't know about me, my culture and my experiences. I often find myself questioning their thoughts and opinions on things that impact my life differently from theirs. I have a tendency to be bothered when peoples' assumptions about who I am and where I'm from do not reflect my own experiences.
However, the longer I let that question sit in my mind, the harder it was to justify my original response. How would anyone know when we know enough to have an opinion? How can I expect people to really know things they have not experienced? Should I be allowed to voice my opinions without knowing the past, present, and future of a problem and potential solution? At the end of the day, I think my immediate reaction, although reasonable and possibly rational, was wrong.
This is, in part, why I'm writing this today. I've been wanting to write about all kinds of things that I see, experience, contemplate and have opinions about. That was my goal when I first launched this site. However, my lack of "knowing" has held me back. I hesitate to put my opinions out into the world because I almost always feel like I don't know enough to have an opinion, and if I don't know enough, I certainly shouldn't put my thoughts out into the world in a public forum. But I realized, that maybe knowing doesn't come from a complete understanding, but comes from a process of learning. And how can I learn if I don't ask questions, have opinions, and seek feedback on my thoughts? I can't. Knowledge is not stagnant, doesn't exist in a vacuum and there is rarely, if ever, only one right answer - not with complex subjects anyway.
So maybe a better answer to her question would be to say that yes, it is OK to have an opinion about things we don't know about. BUT if we don't know (which arguably, we never really can know everything about anything) then we should take the time to learn. Most importantly, we have to be open to other opinions and perspectives...we have to be open to being WRONG. So this is my platform, soapbox if you will, for this conversation.
The things I post are my opinion about things I experience and things I'm trying to learn more about, they are NOT based on things I know to be true. I'm hoping that, together, we can learn more about the complexities of the world around us through thoughtful and productive conversations. In this effort to seek out and develop knowledge about evolving social problems we must seek out alternative perspectives, remain open to rethinking our own points of view, and work together to develop complex, iterative, and sustainable solutions.