The Legalization of Marijuana
Censorship and freedom of speech
What do all these topics have in common? You guessed it, they are all highly controversial and, usually, hotly debated issues. Most people would do anything to avoid them in everyday conversations for fear of sparking a conflict. But did you know that research has shown that talking about controversial issues can be extremely beneficial for people as it promotes in-depth, critical thinking? It enables them to identify and analyze their own values while appreciating those of others.
When based on facts, reason, tolerance, and mutual respect rather than on judgment and strong emotions like fear or hatred, DISCUSSING CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES is a great opportunity for people to actually think for themselves and to clarify their own opinions about important political, social, ethical and moral issues.
Why do we all need to question our views?
Most of the time, our core beliefs are formed early in life and shaped by our upbringing and experiences. They have been reinforced repeatedly by the narratives we hear on a daily basis from family and friends, authorities, school, mainstream religion, society, and of course, the mass media.
Because they are so deeply embedded in our minds, our beliefs and opinions are very difficult to change. That’s partly because their original function is to help us make sense of our experiences as we grow up. They give us some sort of safety and a sense of belonging to the “herd”. The desire for harmony and conformity in the group is more important than each individual’s thoughts and ideas.
The problem, however, is that this Groupthink mentality can breed narrow-mindedness and ignorance, which means potential problems can be ignored and irrational decisions can be made. Never questioning your beliefs can become rather limiting, unproductive, or even harmful. The lack of personal critical evaluation often leads to malevolent groups taking advantage of society’s conformity to establish a dictatorships.
According to Plato, the natural outcome of a democracy is tyranny. He implies that “in a democracy, everyone puts their own selfish interests ahead of the common good until a tyrant emerges who is strong enough to impose his interest on everyone else.” And that is precisely why polarized societies (black and white only, and no gray areas in between) are a threat to democracy.
A healthy democracy is one where people are free to express their opinions, but also free to question the mainstream belief system and where respect for dissent is guaranteed. Controversy should not be seen as a threat, but rather as an opportunity to rethink what we've been taught and to keep our biases at check.
As Adam Grant says it so well, “A good disagreement motivates people to reexamine their own beliefs with humility and curiosity. The goal isn’t to convince them that you’re right—it’s to help them realize that they might be wrong. A healthy democracy doesn’t produce consensus—it promotes critical thinking.”
If you are an advanced learner of English who often questions Groupthink, who is curious and open-minded, who loves deep conversations about meaty, controversial issues, and wants to be challenged intellectually AND linguistically, I have a SPECIAL OFFER for you.
I am running a ten-week Advanced Discussion Course called SPEAK YOUR MIND, where we discuss the aforementioned topics (and not only) and leave room for critical thinking and bias inspection. Here’s what you get if you sign up:
· ten 90-minute live online sessions,
· small groups of 3-5 people,
· negotiated syllabus (YOU get to choose the topics that interest YOU!)
· plenty of high-quality, high-level authentic materials (articles, videos, commentaries, podcasts, TED talks, etc.),
· weekly stimulating discussions on hotly debated ethical issues in society today,
· BONUS: personalized written feedback.
The “Speak Your Mind” advanced discussion course runs three times a year. If you think this kind of deep talk is your cup of tea, and your English level is around C1, join the waitlist NOW, so you can secure your spot AND get a special discount. Keep in mind that the group is limited to 5 people, so… first come, first served. :)
I hope to see you there.
Stay hungry for knowledge, everybody. Embrace controversy and keep questioning your views about the world!