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GRE Issue Essay: 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. - With A Free Essay Review

Prompt: "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."

I disagree with the claim that we can usually learn more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own, because this can result in group norms, narrowing our range of perspectives, and failing to see our own shortcomings.

First of all, working with people whose views we share can result in group norms. In other words, people in the whole group will have the same opinion or perspective about one issue. This can siginificantly narrow our perspectives. If we only work with people whose views we share, then, we could not perceive the other end of the spectrum of a certain problem. I think it is not complete to only see one side of a problem, because this would restrict the diversity of thoughts, and prevent us from seeing our own shortcomings. It is very likely that the whole group will be in a all right or all wrong situation, and it is possible that this can encourage radical views, too. In addition, this can also bring the group to a stagnant situation since there is no new ideas to break the group norm. For instance, if a company is in a crisis, all members in a company share the same view and the ingroup decision is wrong. If they refuse to accept contradictory views, then, they are likely to stick with the wrong principal and nothing can bring a change.

The history of man is full of examples of people who were willing to listen contradictory views and were proven to be beneficial. For example, during American Civil War, after Abraham Lincoln won the president election, he invited the person who ran the election against him to his tent. He not only listened to these contradictory ideas from others, but also made these people to be a part of his decision making group. Since the US at that time was deeply divided, and people had different opinions, listening to contradictory views not only enriched Lincoln’s knowledge but also broadened his perspectives.

It is true that disagreements can cause stress, but during the discussion and arguing process, people can get better understanding about the problem by viewing how others think. During the process of attempting to argue against contradictory views, we can understand our own stands in depths, and critize others’ opinions. I think this can improve our critical thinking instead of limiting our learning.

To sum up, I disagree with the claim that we can usually learn more from people whose views we share than from thoes whose views contradict our own, because this can result in group norms, bringing us to a stagnant situation, and narrowing the range of perspectives. Instead, listening to others’ views can encourage critical thinking rather than inhibiting learning.



Your discussion of why you think we learn better from those whose views contradict our own is reasonable, if a bit one-sided; your discussion of the reason offered in the prompt for the alternative position is fairly limited. Concerning the latter, you say merely that you agree that disagreement can cause stress, but not that it can inhibit learning. The offered reason, to be sure, seems a fairly slight and vague one for thinking "we can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own" but you ought to try to read it as sympathetically as possible (as well as reading it as critically as possible); that is, try to imagine what a hypothetical reasonable person might be thinking of should he offer that reason. (One could even be critical and sympathetic at the same time. One could argue that the statement is not often true, but whether it is true depends on the person; some people are more open to listening to views that challenge their own than are others. Or you could argue that it depends on the situation; it might be hard for a Jew to learn from a Nazi sympathizer; it might be hard for a misogynist to learn from a feminist, and vice versa.)

You ought in any case to try to think why someone might believe that stress inhibits learning, and at the same time you should not just assume that we cannot learn from those whose views we share. Of course it is true that we cannot learn much from someone who only knows what we know and has the same interpretation of events as we have. In order to learn from someone whose views we share, however, the person would only need to know something that we don't; in order to learn from someone whose views we do not share, that someone may have to convince us that we are wrong about something we think we know. Some (e.g., narcissists with strong attachments to their own views) are doubtless likely to find the experience of having their views questioned and challenged in that way stressful and difficult. There is certainly a greater obstacle to be overcome in order for the challenged narcissist to be open to new knowledge.

Your third paragraph is the weakest here because it offers an example without offering a significant argument on the basis of that example; and the example itself is a bit problematic for me. You provide Lincoln as an example of one who learned from those whose views he did not share, but despite the clever opening sentence of that paragraph, it is not clear to me whether Lincoln really is an example of the rule or of the exception. Is his ability to learn from ideological or political opponents to be admired and marvelled at because it is the sign of a rare man of sympathy and magnanimity (in which case, he doesn't help make your general case really) or is it rather a fairly commonplace ability (but then why would Lincoln’s having it be so noted?)? Presumably you want to suggest that Lincoln's learning from those whose views he did not share is at least indicative of the fact that we ought to be able to learn from such people. You conclude the paragraph, however, with a statement that really begs the question.

Best, EJ.

P.S. I suggest also that you practice quickly proofreading your essay before you submit it. I would like that, but it is also good practice; there is a good chance that a largely error-free essay will outscore the same essay with even simple errors. You should be able to proofread a one page essay in less than a minute, and should devote one minute to proofreading in the test.
Submitted by: uofr6460

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