Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.

Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

In the modern world, people experience differences in view on a daily basis: political debates are easily accessible through media, business plans are seriously contemplated through numerous meetings, and even within each family, there are often decision-making moments that involve disagreement and negotiations. The prompt believes that since disagreement can cause stress, and inhibit learning, people actually learn more from those who share similar views then from those who disagree.

The idea that we can learn from people who are like-minded is an illusion. There is a tendency in our social life for people to seek comfort and a sense of security by finding similarities. For example, with the availability of many dating apps, finding a lifetime partner no longer starts with a random encounter, but becomes a purposeful task: people are intentionally looking for potential partners who share similar educational backgrounds, interests, and philosophy of life. The underlying intention of finding similar partners is to minimize potential disagreements in their future life together.

In addition to the renewed way of modern dating, many other forms of social relationships are based on a sense of community and shared identity, such as feminist organizations, disability alliances, or the single mother support groups. What draws these people together to form communities is precisely their similarities , which brings about a genuine willingness to listen to and share with other people. It appears that people may have an easy time getting along and carrying their conversations to deep, personal levels, but it does not necessarily mean that people learn more from their peers who tend to agree with them. We can make the argument that what one gets most out of like-minded peers is not knowledge nor critical reflection, but a sense of belonging, comfort, and security.

Disagreement would likely make people so defensive about themselves that they would not be willing to offer listening ears and to learn. Thus, disagreement may potentially cause stress and stall further communication and exchanged.

Even so. however, disagreement also presents itself as the point of departure for in depth discussion of the issues at hand. For example, traditional feminism seeks equal treatment of women because it considers the world privileges males, while progressive feminism considers women and men both victims of patriarchal ideologies. For any who invests in feminism in general, I believe the existence of such disagreement in view is an opportunity to learn more. For those who hold radical views, traditional feminism helps see the ways in which men can be delegates of patriarchal values, and for traditional feminists, radical perspective help them see how innocent boys have been indoctrinated with violent patriarchal values when they are young, and grow up to embrace toxic masculinity. Disagreements like this are ubiquitous in every aspect of our social and culture life. Instead of shunning them. we need to treat disagreements as symptomatic of significance, as an opportunity to learn.

Of course, when it comes to fundamental beliefs, people with contradicting views are unlikely to compromise their perspectives, let along learn from each other. Fundamental beliefs, such as political stance, religious principles, or philosophical doctrines, even though largely immaterial and often intangible, are an indispensable component of one’s sense of subjectivity. This means, unlike knowledge or experience, something people gradually accumulate in the course of their lives so that they become useful tools for people to know better about the world, fundamental beliefs allude to the ways in which people come to understand themselves and understand their positions in the world. In other words, challenging one’s fundamental views is often seen as offensive, for it questions not the views but the person. Thus, people tend to be obsessively protective of their political, religious or philosophical views, to the extent that many wars have been triggered precisely because of extremely different political and religious ideologies. As a result, in dealing with contrasting views in fundamental beliefs, people are constantly reminded that they need to appreciate diversity and to respect different ways of living. Learning from each other seems to be too much to ask, for now.

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