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Ready-Made Opinions

Homeschool mom considering opinionsWe just returned from a trip to the store where, I will admit, I grabbed some ready-made food items. Yes, I could probably have made those items from scratch with a little time and effort, but that seems to be the trade-off we face often these days: convenience vs. time and effort.

Now, a few ready-made food items are not a huge deal to me, but I have noticed a trend in grabbing another ready-made item that carries a much greater consequence. It seems that with the growing ease of sharing information across the Internet, there is a proportionate growth of grabbing ready-made opinions.

It’s all too easy to watch a three-minute video and consider oneself ready to state an “expert” opinion or to read a five-paragraph blog post and immediately jump on the author’s band wagon without a second thought.

Pulled by the Strings of Other People’s Opinions

Charlotte Mason warned against the tendency to dress our minds in ready-made opinions:

“We do a worse hurt to ourselves when we dress our persons in ready-made garments and our minds in ready-made opinions; because, in so far as we do so, we lose the chance of using our Will; we act as an automaton and not as a person; and no more fulfil our function than do the sham plants used in tawdry decorations. Every man and woman who does not live in the continual thoughtful exercise of a temperate will, is more or less of a lay figure, pulled by the strings of other people’s opinions” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 144).

Those of you who have read our new free e-book, The Way of the Will, will remember that the job of the will is to choose. It is supported by a cultivated conscience and a well-exercised reason, but ultimately it must put forth the effort to decide. And therein lies the rub; making a good decision requires time and effort.

Once again it becomes a matter of convenience vs. time and effort. We would rather depend on others to invest the time and effort (At least, we assume they did.) and make the decision; we prefer the convenience of picking up their ready-made opinions.

I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of whole groups of people who have been swayed first one way and then another by a public figure’s stated opinion. We may shake our heads at their gullible minds, but if we are not careful, we may get in the habit of picking up ready-made opinions ourselves.

A Great Part of Our Work in Life

Charlotte believed that forming just opinions—opinions that are upright, honest, accurate, founded in truth—is a great part of our work in life. Yes, it will require some effort and time on our part; but when we consider how a hasty opinion based on mistaken information can hurt someone or even destroy that person’s life, our duty becomes clear.

“Every person has many opinions, either his own, honestly thought out, or picked up from his pet newspaper, or from his favourite companion. The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he helped to save a life. There is no more or less about duty; and it is a great part of our work in life to do our duty in our thoughts and form just opinions” (Vol. 4, Book 1, pp. 180, 181).

Since Charlotte placed such a great value on this duty of forming just opinions, she had much to write about it. We’ll spend the next few weeks looking at her reminders and encouragement in this important area of our personal lives, knowing that our children will pick up our approach to forming opinions as they live in the atmosphere of our homes. Let’s make sure we demonstrate the justice of honestly thinking out our opinions rather than grabbing them ready-made.

Outdoor Secrets Audiobook Winner

Last week, as part of the CM Blog Carnival celebrating Charlotte’s birthday, we promised a free copy of the Outdoor Secrets audiobook to one of our commenters. Congratulations to Karen F., who will be receiving her choice of a CD or download of this delightful nature book!

4 Responses to “Ready-Made Opinions”

  1. Amy January 18, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    I really needed to hear this today.

  2. Sarah January 18, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    “It seems that with the growing ease of sharing information across the Internet, there is a proportionate growth of grabbing ready-made opinions.” Well-said! I have been mulling over some similar ideas lately, especially regarding what causes some ideas to change my life, while others fire me up and then quickly slip away.

    I am reading “School Education,” and in the section about intellectual habits, Mason says, “There is nothing sadder than the way we allow intellectual impressions to pass over the surface of our minds, without any effort to retain or assimilate.” I was struck by how much wonderful information I have been exposed to that has gone clean out of my head within days or weeks of reading it. Why was it so easily lost? I certainly could improve in my areas of reflection and meditation, but was that the only reason? I have come to the conclusion that the problem isn’t that I am not paying proper attention. (At least, that isn’t the only problem.) The greater problem is that these ideas have been prechewed and served up as bites of information. I think when we do not dig into information and tease out the underlying ideas for our own self, when we don’t – as CM encourages her students to – make our own connections, our grip on those ideas is slippery at best. Before I know it, they have slipped out of my mind, and I am left beating myself up for not being attentive enough.

    The more I think about these ideas, the more I am convicted by Mason’s encouragement not to get between the child and the ideas presented by the literature. It’s so tempting. It makes me feel so necessary and helpful, but in the end, I’m seeing more and more how it actually inhibits my children from gleaning ideas that will really stick with them and change them.

  3. Nanci January 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    What a great and timely topic!
    I look forward to the rest of the series.

  4. Julie January 20, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    “Those of you who have read our new free e-book, The Way of the Will, will remember that the job of the will is to choose. It is supported by a cultivated conscience and a well-exercised reason, but ultimately it must put forth the effort to decide. And therein lies the rub; making a good decision requires time and effort.”

    I appreciate this statement in the blog post because I am naturally very indecisive and sometimes other peoples opinions seem the wise choice (example would be homeschool curriculum recommendations). I am learning to take the time and effort to MAKE a decision instead of leaning on someone else’s opinion. I doubt myself whenever I don’t really take the time to pray and think through a decision, however, whenever I put in a effort to decide I am no longer indecisive or doubtful.

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