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Claim: We Can Usually Learn Much More From People Whose Views We Share Than From Those Whose Views Contradict Our Own. - With A Free Essay Review

“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.”

The importance of harmony has often been emphasized. At home and in the classroom, we are encouraged to be accepting and uncritical of others ideas. This supposedly makes for a more pleasant environment and encourages learning. However, these proponents of this view mistake consensus with collaboration. Disagreement is actually useful in promoting learning, contrary to popular belief. Disagreement prevents people from slipping into a state of complacency, stimulates creative thinking, and also provides impetus and food for rethinking one’s stand.

The central tenet of the immensely popular phenomenon brainstorming is simply not to criticize. According to its inventor, Osborn, criticism prevents people from contributing ideas and thus prevents us from learning from the ideas of others, as people are naturally afraid of negative feedback and will tend to clam up in the face of criticism. However, researchers have found that brainstorming in a group, far from producing more ideas, actually reduces the number of ideas as compared to each person in the group individually coming up with ideas. The reason why this is so is that passive agreement and the feeling of safety when surrounded with other people of the same beliefs and views leads to complacency, and thus we do not feel the need to contribute more ideas. “After all, the person next to me with the same thoughts would have already thought of it,” is what transpires in our minds. The less people contribute, the less we will be able to learn from them.

In addition, disagreement actually helps stimulate learning, against all expectations. Research has found that when two groups of people, angry people and happy people, were told to come up with ideas, angry people tended to come up with more ideas, and these ideas were also deemed to be more creative. The anger in these people allowed them to think out of the box and also gave them the courage to write down solutions that most people would have deemed ridiculous. While this is not to say that we need to induce anger in people in order to learn, a healthy dose of skepticism and disagreement would serve well to increase the flow of ideas and thus what we can learn from them and ourselves.

Apart from the ability of criticism to produce new ideas, the contrasting ideas provided by others also provokes us and acts as a foil to reexamine our own positions and stands. Responding to the criticism leveled at us necessitates the scrutiny of our arguments from their premises so as to ensure that they are watertight and are actually valid, or if they are not, to buttress them so that they would be able to withstand attack. In the process of self-inspection, we often are able to learn more than we would if no one had actually challenged our views. Steve Jobs was famous for his combative management style in the office. While most executives enticed employees with the carrot, Jobs threatened with the stick. This forced his managers to be able to defend their every action, to make sure that what they were doing was right, leaving no room for error. It is no doubt that analyzing Jobs' criticism and using that criticism to finetune their ideas allowed the managers to learn extensively and become excellent themselves. This critical culture still remains today after Jobs' death, and is what make Apple so successful.

While critics hold that agreement and rapport are essential to building a healthy relationship between people so that learning is possible, this relationship is often only superficially healthy. A true healthy relationship will be one whereby parties are able to accept criticism and use it for motivation to produce creative ideas, and also to refine the ideas that one comes up with, such that learning can be enhanced for all parties involved.


Essay Review

This is a pretty good essay (which is why my comments may be briefer than usual) but I am not sure that it is the right kind of essay for the GRE test. If you actually wrote an essay like this for the test, I suspect (on the basis of a hunch) that you would still do reasonably well, but the essay does not display throughout the kind of analysis that I think ETS wants to gauge. Much of your essay's argument is supported by the results of research. I don't know whether you were already familiar with this research or read up on the subject for the sake of writing the essay. If the latter is the case, then I would think that doing that is the wrong approach to preparing for the test (it's not a test of knowledge), and whichever is the case, I think incorporating the results of research in the essay is not the best approach to writing the essay. In a real-world essays, using such research to support argumentative positions is standard practice, but what I think you ought to emphasize for the GRE essays (both in the preparation and in the writing of the essays) is critical analysis and the construction of arguments supported by reasons and, where necessary, examples. For instance, substantially all of your second and third paragraphs only inform the GRE reader about what you know, whereas you ought to be trying to inform the reader about how you think. I would recommend that, instead of doing the sort of thing you do in those paragraphs, you undertake a more or less abstract critical analysis of the reason given for the claim in the prompt. To be sure, some of the issues that you raise in the paragraphs I've been complaining a little about could also be raised as part of that analysis, but they might be raised now in the context of questions you pose about the original argument: the assumptions it makes, the possible issues it ignores, the possible insufficiency of the given reason as support for the claim. Your penultimate paragraph doesn't explicitly do that kind of analysis either, but it is closer to the kind of abstract reasoning (now suitably supported with a concrete example rather than with the results of studies) that is appropriate for this type of essay.

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: yukarin


Hi, is there any way to edit my essay after it has been posted? I wish to correct some words that I forgot to delete, as well as the title.

Otherwise, I await your helpful comments. Thank you!
August,13 2012

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