Commonplace Book #7: Opinions vs Decisions

A Passage from David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America

“[A]n education [. . .] that was designed to support a truly direct, deliberative democracy [. . .] would be an education oriented to the ‘strong publics’ of decision-making rather than the ‘weak publics’ of opinion formation” (205).

Fleming makes interesting points in this quote about the education system and democracy working collaboratively. Neither of them can really be successful without the other. In this quote specifically, Fleming is emphasizing “decision-making” over “opinion formation.” Fleming desires the education system to be focusing on decision-making rather than opinion formation. Decision-making involves looking at the situation and the facts that surround it and making inferences or choices that involve all of those variables. On the other hand, opinion formation does not have to involve any of that. People can simply look at anything, and without facts, form opinions or thoughts. This is not a productive way to learn or work and live in a democracy.

In college versus high school, I have found that I’m required to use more decision-making rather than opinion-formation. In high school, we were encouraged to form opinions and discussions often revolved around our opinions. However, looking back, those opinions were not always backed up by facts and reasonable observations based on the situation I was in. Fleming would have encouraged my fellow classmates and I to look at the reasons for why things were happening or what the aftermath would look like. Anybody can form an opinion, but looking at scenarios and making calculated observations or decisions based on them is a skill that everyone should learn and put into effect.

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