There was a long silence as I gazed at the ‘bargains ‘ surrounding us.One of my daughters poked me to ‘engage’ but before I could conjure up a suitable question or observation the chap opposite asked which airport we flew out from.The fact that I couldn’t accurately predict what grade I was going to get meant that I didn’t understand what they were looking for. Because if I did know what they were looking for and what the rules of the game were I should have been able to get straight ‘A’s or at least know that what I was submitting was only worth a B or a C or whatever.
I did okay with my strategy of writing as much stuff down as possible and then rehearsing it just before the exams.
When I got to my masters the same scenario started to play out.
That we weigh evidence based on how it was obtained and how much of the argument or opinion it supports.
Note, here there is a distinction between an unsubstantiated opinion (aka the Manchester Airport Conversation) and an evidenced opinion where the limits of the evidence to support the argument are known.
Professor Pring intoduced me to a whole world of thinking, thinking about thinking, and thinking about learning, education and human (learning, intellectual, moral and ethical) development in general.
During this time of having my mind well and truly spun around and stretched, I stumbled across a fascinating body of work by an epistemologist (the study of knowledge and how we know and understand things) called William Perry.If you have had the privilege of going to university you will have been extolled to engage in critical thinking.Many organisations have critical thinking in their competency frameworks and it is a phrase banded about a lot in professional circles.An opinion without supporting evidence and data (see this post for the difference between the two) is just that, an opinion.There is no way to discover whether the opinion has any foundation in reality or is just the ravings of a mad person. Well I had lots of problems but at the risk of invoking tears of sympathy and mockery I will focus on this one pertinent issue. However this is actually a problem of major proportions in any learning system.Seeing a window of opportunity for a discussion about the merits of the various airport facilities and maybe airports with a fellow worldly traveller I enquired tearing my eyes from a ‘traditional’ Moroccan rug twice the size of my house in Oxford “Oh? ”Subjective experience, such as I feel this when x happens or I feel y about this building or work of art is valid for matters of taste; however using that as your sole evidence for your opinion on a universal statement of fact doesn’t exactly invite much discussion or exploration.Indeed, beyond asking why again, there isn’t much one can do to evaluate whether the opinion is valid and is one you can ascribe to or try to refute with a better argument.I’d submit something and not quite be able to predict what mark I would get.Things I thought were great pieces of work got a B or a C and the stuff I rushed or cobbled together could get anything from a D to an A.Under the ever watchful gaze of my children I decided that eye rolling was probably not my best course of action and replied with probably a little too much enthusiasm “Manchester airport” whilst wondering what to level of enlightenment this conversation was about to lead.The response was what has since become immortalised as ‘The Manchester Airport conversation’ was “I hate Manchester Airport”.