THE BLOG
01/10/2015 08:34 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2015

Opinions Versus Opinionated

I have opinions! Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines opinion as: "A view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter." In describing how "opinion" is used, Webster says, "Opinion implies a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute."

Yes, I have opinions about: politics, which includes what I think of the performance of the U.S. Congress; the programs and actions of the President of the United States; our country's handling of world affairs; illegal immigration; how other nations feel about us, how they treat us, and why; the use of our military forces; our obligations as the superpower of the world; and the inability of the Democrats and Republicans to forget about being re-elected and the 2016 elections and concentrate on what's best for the United States of America.

I also have opinions about the laws enacted by state legislatures and how governors administer those laws. And my opinions also cover how counties, cities, and small towns operate. And I certainly have some opinions about how governments treat the people they govern and the election processes that elect the various governments.

I have opinions about how churches are functioning today: what we expect from our churches; the training of our clergy; the practices and doctrines of various denominations; the decline of church-related schools and colleges; what is happening to Sunday morning worship; the continued secularization of the United States and Europe; and the sanction of gay marriage by churches. And I have many opinions about radical Islam!

I have no shortage of opinions about: how parents should raise their children and how children should treat their parents, and that includes how my children raise their children and how their children treat their parents and what they are doing with their lives. I have opinions about the general lack of manners being taught to, and practiced by, our young people. I have opinions about: how more and more people are living together without being married; the number of children being born out of wedlock and the number of children being raised by single parents; how divorce affects children; the abuse of children; and the baby sitting of young children by live-in boyfriends who are abusive.

Oh, yes, I also have lots of opinions about school systems: their curricula; the training of teachers; the runaway costs of athletics, including the outrageous salaries of coaches; the ongoing increases of the cost of a college education; how unions have affected the quality of education; the pluses and minuses of tenure; what busing has done, and is doing, to education; and the qualifications of, and salaries paid to, teachers and college faculty.

And I have opinions about many other subjects, as well. And I suspect that most of you who are reading this blog have opinions about many of the same things, and if not about the things I have mentioned, about lots of other subjects. But is there anything wrong with our having opinions about the many things that are going on in lives? I don't think so!

In fact, I think it is good for people to have ideas about anything that concerns them, and that it is not only all right for us to voice those opinions, but it is healthy for our country when our citizens put forth how they feel about what's going on in their lives and the life of the world. That's all part of how a democracy works compared to a dictatorial form of government, where only the leaders are allowed to have opinions and the common people are expected to do what the leaders think and say and not to think or talk about it.

But there is a difference in having opinions and being opinionated. Turning again to Webster, "opinionated" is defined as: "Unduly adhering to one's own opinion or to preconceived notions."

I have opinions, and if you read my weekly blogs regularly you know that I do not hesitate to voice those opinions. But I am not opinionated. I like to think that I base my opinions on "evidence and good reason," and I try to write in such a way that I encourage my readers who disagree to act constructively in disagreeing.

As a classroom teacher I never insisted that my students agree with me. I welcomed and encouraged students to have their own opinions. I always insisted, however, that if they disagreed with me that they were able to articulate their own positions and back them up with "evidence and good reason." Like in my classrooms, I do not fault readers for disagreeing with me; I fault them for not presenting their own arguments backed up with "evidence and good reason."

It is important that we are open-minded about how others feel. That doesn't mean we have to agree with them, but we should be committed to consider their "evidence and good reason," realizing that their ideas and opinions may also be well thought out. That is also part of the way our form of government is meant to function: people voicing their opinions, accompanied by a willingness to consider the merits of the opinions of others.

Getting back to politics, many members of Congress (Senate and House) seem to isolate themselves once they are in office and forget whom they represent until they want more money for their next campaign. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there are too many people in government who are opinionated instead of having opinions, remembering that Webster suggests "opinion implies a conclusion thought out yet open to dispute." I wish more of our career politicians were honestly interested in the opinions of the people who elect them. Politicians need to provide practical ways for the people to voice those opinions, and the people need to take an active interest in providing opinions based on "evidence and good reason."

There are far too many people in our country, and in the world, who are opinionated. Let's all of us concentrate on having our country--our world--dominated, instead, by people who have opinions. And that starts with each of us--with you and me!