Freedom of speech is something we all fight for and we all agree with. It is something that should be allowed in every classroom by both teachers and classmates. No one should have their thoughts and opinions silenced, nor be judged for what they have to say. We live in a time and age when we have access to several platforms that allow us to voice our beliefs. Globalization has allowed different opinions to be spread and discussed as fast as thoughts form in our heads. However, how does a difference in opinions affect our lives? How should we discuss our different opinions?
When I was younger, it was considered quirky to have a different opinion. “Oh, you are weird because you do not think like the rest of us" or “Wow, you are so different!" were commonly used phrases for those students whose thoughts did not match what was expected of society. Having a different opinion used to be a synonym for weird, freak, or even liberal; labels used by teachers themselves when a student did not agree with them. However nowadays, these connotations have changed, and the term is used for what it truly means: having different perspectives on the same subject.
As a matter of fact, this “two sides of the same coin" philosophy has been encouraged by society. Many articles have been written on the importance of having different opinions. An example of this is an article in The Muse titled “Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid to Have a Different Opinion From Your Team." The author states, “when everyone agrees with each other all the time, it might mean that great ideas are getting left on the table... or not even considered at all." She encourages people to speak up when they believe their ideas could be better than what is being presented. Expressing different opinions can mean–in this case–better results are being achieved. In a classroom, it can broaden the conversation on certain topics.
However, in more recent times, we have noticed there are topics in which a different opinion means a harmful result for someone else. When discussing equality topics such as LGBTQ+, feminism, or Black Lives Matter, there comes a point when an opinion can mean the invalidation of these communities. Disagreeing with someone’s right to lead a good, equal life goes far beyond a different opinion. When it comes to someone’s life, we should not be having discussions or arguments as to what they deserve to have or not. When having these kinds of discussion in an academic environment, there should be a moderator to intervene when things get out of hand.
Sadly, these are the types of discussions we are seeing more of in the recent months. With protests and political campaigns being at their full force, everyone believes they have a right to voice their opinion even if it means harming one of their classmates. This is where a line needs to be drawn. This is where we need to learn how to have educational discussion. When we hear someone voicing an opinion that we know invalidates another person’s existence, we need to speak up against that. The best way to do it is encouraging them to educate themselves on the subject at hand. It is important to explain their thoughts are harmful to other human beings and they should review their beliefs.
As human beings, we have the capacity to educate ourselves and learn from our mistakes. That is what needs to happen when we are presented with a hateful or harmful opinion. It is time society learns freedom of speech does not mean voicing hateful speeches. Having these kinds of conversations should be aimed towards spreading knowledge on topics that are important. This is when we stand up against opinions that try to erase our experiences or tell us we have no rights. However, the most important thing is to always approach someone else with respect–even if their opinion is harming us–because we owe ourselves that much.
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