Henry Devareaux Jr, protagonist of Richard Russo’s novel Straight Man, laments the decreasing relevance of an old English class standby: the persuasive paper. Why should we teach students to persuade, he asks, when no one wants to be persuaded of anything anymore?
I think Hank may have a point. We live in an era in which close-mindedness is seen by many as a virtue. We develop our beliefs on politics, religion, and other areas of life fairly young, and we tend to stick to them for the rest of our lives. Studies have found that people tend to seek out information that backs up their previously established beliefs and discount anything that challenges those beliefs. (If you’re interested: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/23/confirmation-bias/)
Given these circumstances, it’s remarkable that anyone ever changes their mind. Yet people do it, every day. Whether it’s switching soft drink preferences or re-thinking your entire perception of a person, changing your mind can be an exciting, or even scary, experience. It can make you question everything about your life, or it can just make you see some things in a different light.
So I want you all to think about times you’ve changed your mind—about a friend, about a political issue, a religious doctrine, anything—and write about it. How did you come to change your mind? Who helped you to see things differently? And how were things different once you did? Around 200 words, due Sunday. Happy writings.