Mamacita says: Fact vs. opinion is one of the units I look forward to, difficult though it can be for my students. Helping my students understand the difference between a fact and an opinion is one of the most difficult parts of my curriculum. We all want to think that what we personally believe is fact, and everything else is opinion. Until we learn discernment, we stand by “it” because “it” is what/how we were brought up and taught by our elders, and all-too-often, because it’s just how we want “it” to be and the thought that “it” might not is more than our level of discernment can bear.
We are raised in homes with certain values and while those values may be wonderful, and promote honesty and decency and learning, they are still opinions. Ditto the homes with values that promote lies and adultery and criminal behavior. Belief in both is opinion. I know which set of values I personally believe in, but that is my opinion. And yours.
But no matter how firm we are in our beliefs, facts and opinions are not the same thing. There is a huge difference.
“The garden has two rows of red tulips” is a fact. “All those tulips make the garden really lovely” is an opinion.
“Everyone should make a list before going to the grocery store” is an opinion. “Many people make a list before going to the grocery store” is a fact.
Pick and choose your words carefully; adjectives and adverbs can turn a fact into an opinion.
“My new boyfriend has gorgeous red hair” is an opinion “My new boyfriend has red hair” is a fact. One word can transform a fact into an opinion.
If a thing cannot be objectively proven, no matter how badly you might want to believe it’s a fact, it’s an opinion. Nobody controls facts. Nobody dictates truth. Not your mom, not your grandfather, not your minister, not your rabbi, not your priest, not your best friend, and not your president. Facts are. Truth is. Opinion varies.
Opinions are how you feel about it. Feelings are not facts.
Generalizations are not facts, either. If the statement uses words like “everybody,” or “nobody,” or “never,” or “always,” it’s an opinion.
“But Mom, everybody’s going to the party!” is an opinion. “But Mom, Mike and Sue are going to the party!” is a fact.
In spite of Cervantes, facts are truth. (I will always love Cervantes’ quotation, though. Allegory fascinates me, and the Man of La Mancha is one of my favorite pieces of literature.) (And an awesome musical.) (Not the movie version; you have to see it live.) (My opinion.)
Facts and opinions clash all the time, and most of those clashes are nothing. (Big Macs are better than Whoppers – opinion. Big Macs don’t have tomato but Whoppers do – fact.) (Trivial fact that affects nothing important.) However, if religion or politics are involved, people tend to lose perspective and forget to be discerning. Or even how to count.
“The Baptist church is the only way to salvation” is opinion. “The Baptist church has the largest pipe organ in this city” is a fact, which can be proven with a tape measure. A really big one.
“Full immersion baptism is the only way to enter the Kingdom” is an opinion. “Many people believe that infant baptism is necessary for salvation” is a fact. Why? Because of the adjectives and adverbs. If an issue is important to you, analyze it carefully. Make sure it actually represents what you think it represents. Make sure it represents what you actually believe. For this, you need discernment.
Wishful thinking will not change an opinion into a fact. Word to the White House. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. Another word to the White House.
I know that much of life concerns the shades of gray that often lie between fact and opinion, but even so, an intelligent nation MUST know how to discern that.
Issues of any kind are clashes between fact and opinion. Please understand the difference. Not everybody loved Raymond. Don’t be afraid to challenge your belief system. If questions and banter and debate threaten to topple your belief system, maybe you need a new one. If you belong to any kind of organization that frowns on questions, run, don’t walk, away. They’re hiding something. They’re afraid of toppling.
Facts don’t topple. And nobody can say “because I said so” except your Mom, and that phase should be gone by the time you’re eight.
People with no discernment skills are easy to persuade, easy to boss around. They believe what they want to believe and they’ll follow anyone who advocates their same beliefs. They tend to be very literal. They are sheep, and sheep are stupid. Large mobs of sheep are dangerous. They want and even need to be led. They find leaders who are seeking these people. They want a leader who is persuasive and they’ll do almost anything asked of them. Remember Jim Jones? Beware.
People who know how to discern can be difficult in an environment that values obedience and kow-towing and instant belief. They know how to read between the lines. They comprehend inferentially as well as literally. They are thinkers and self-starters. They are creative and artistic and literate. They are the hope of the universe.
So, what’s the best way for a person to be? That would, sadly, be a matter of opinion. I hope mine shines through. I have no control over yours.
On the bright side, you have no control over mine, either. I know how to discern. Sometimes, after some thought, I change my mind. But never over a fact, my friends. 20 items means 20 items. If you have 21 items, you don’t belong in the short line. And that is a fact.
Discernment teaches us inferential skills, and context clues, because the same word in one context is a completely different word in another context. Super literal people have trouble understanding this. Lack of this skill is dangerous.
In common use almost every word has many shades of meaning, and therefore needs to be interpreted by the context. — Alfred Marshall
Remember third grade, learning how to use a dictionary, and how even tiny little simple words could have two pages of meanings, no two alike, depending on the context? And how you had to understand the context so you could understand what that little word meant this time when it meant something else last time?