GRE Issue Essay 194
“We owe almost all our knowledge not to people who have agreed, but to people who have disagreed.”
The greatest source of knowledge is interaction with others. If we analyze the knowledge that we have acquired over the years, some of it would have come to us by reading but most of the knowledge would have been imparted to us by either our parents or by other people around us. This includes all people who have either agreed or disagreed with us. Agreement reveals new aspects in favor of the topic being discussed and disagreement brings forward aspects that would not have been thought of by us. Therefore, both agreement and disagreement contribute in a major way to whatever knowledge has been acquired by us.
When you interact with a person who disagrees with your point of view, you try your best to convince him and prove the validity of your stance. If you are not able to immediately think of strong evidence in your favor, you may even go back and read more about the issue that was being discussed so that you are able to prove your viewpoint whenever the discussion comes up again. Moreover, you may feel the urge to explore the viewpoint of the other person so that you are able to refute his claims in some way or the other. The entire process will ensure that you have increased your knowledge about that particular topic from different perspectives. On the other hand, if you interact with someone who agrees with you, then you may not be able to acquire additional knowledge as you will not feel the requirement of reading more about the issue. However, you may be able to learn something new from the positive discussion in which people would bring out more points in favor of your viewpoint.
At the same time, disagreements can lead to unpleasant situations wherein no one is willing to accept the viewpoint of the other. Such discussions lead nowhere and none of the participants is able to gain any knowledge as they are busy contradicting the views of the other people who are disagreeing with them. It would be highly unjustified to assume that such a discussion could have favorable results. The same set of people may be able to learn something if they interact with people who share their views. Common grounds for discussions lead to a constructive interaction wherein people share their knowledge with others who have the same viewpoint.
Take for example, discussions carried out by teachers in classrooms. The teacher always encourages active participation from the students in the form of healthy discussions. There is never a restriction on the students to stick to the viewpoint of the teacher. The students have the liberty to voice their opinions as this is considered as the best method for imparting knowledge. Schools keep conducting debate competitions wherein students can speak for or against the motion. If it were true that disagreement does not lead to any fruitful gains with respect to knowledge, then the education system would not have emphasized so much on discussions in classrooms where the students have the liberty of choosing their points of view.
Whenever there are conferences regarding some project either in business establishments or in public undertakings, everyone is given a chance to voice his opinions as the person chairing the meeting knows that discussions which are done either in agreement or in disagreement will reap benefits. This is because people who speak in favor of the issue being discussed will bring out the advantages of the implementation of the project and the people who do not agree with some aspects of the project will be able to reveal some flaws in the project, which were perhaps ignored by the management.
In conclusion, it is evident that people tend to gain knowledge whenever their ideas and viewpoints are opposed by others. At the same time, we have to accept the fact that people who are in agreement with us serve to add to our knowledge by providing us with appreciation for our ideas and other information that further consolidates our views.