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Opinion

Value to be had from political dialogues

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February 28, 2013

It seems like every time a group of people discusses politics or governmental issues, both liberals and conservatives refer to it as a “political debate.” The term “debate” implies that opposing viewpoints are being put forth for one idea to be deemed superior to the other.

However, the beauty of politics is that all citizens are entitled to their own views and can voice theses beliefs with their vote. The goal of political discussion is not to win, but rather, to engage in the critical thinking process to reach an educated conclusion about your own beliefs.

Each citizen in the United States has been politically socialized in a different way. We come from a variety of family backgrounds, are products of diverse school systems, and have had unique experiences. These socializing agents, combined with many others, have shaped our values in a profound manner. The values people hold are often deeply engrained, and these values have caused people to make decisions about the attitudes they have on specific political issues.

Because of how political socialization works, it is obvious that the political views of human beings are firmly established and are not easily changed. As a result, when discussing politics, it is important to keep in mind that it is extremely rare for a person to change their views after having one conversation about an issue. However, this does not mean that governmental issues should be completely ignored. There are a number of valuable things to be gained from discussing governmental issues if people are willing to be mature and open-minded.

Hearing both sides of a political argument provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of a particular issue. Many times in political discussions, facts and evidence are revealed that you do not have previous knowledge of. When this occurs, instead of jumping to false conclusions, becoming upset because the other person does not agree with your views, and/or name-calling, ask questions about this new information.

Where did the person find that particular statistic? What led that expert to reach that specific conclusion? Asking questions will allow you to acquire more knowledge so you can be confident that you have made an educated decision on the issue.

Furthermore, discussing specific issues will lead to one of two outcomes. The dialogue will either reaffirm what you already believe in or it will cause you to think about the issue in a different way than you have before and possibly change your position. Both of these results are positive because regardless of the end that is achieved, you have taken part in the critical thinking process.

Taking different points of view into consideration, analyzing all of them, and reaching a conclusion is a key process in political discussions. Without engaging in this process, very little will be gained from the political discussion other than extreme frustration.

It is clear that there is a stigma of political discussion in our nation because the subject typically makes people upset. However, there is nothing to fear about these interactions. If all parties enter the dialogue with a willingness to engage in the critical thinking process, the outcomes should be nothing short of positive.

If you do not know something about a particular issue, and are curious, do not be afraid to ask questions and open a discussion. If there is something you want to know about an argument that differs from your own, do not be afraid to talk about it. Political discussion is a vital part of being an active and responsibly engaged citizen of the United States of America. Until people welcome these opportunities to learn and grow, our national will continue to be held back by immaturity and self-interest.

Morgan Stippel is a political science major and a professional writing minor. When she graduates from UW-River Falls, she wants to become a state prosecutor and specialize in domestic violence cases.