I saw this today on VideoSift and learned something about myself.
I absolutely despise the phrase “That’s your opinion”.
The judge in the video is completely right. The phrase is nothing more than immature and petulant, only slightly better than putting your fingers in your ears and singing “La, la, la, I can’t hear you” at the top of your lungs. Instead of continuing the conversation as an exchange of ideas, it says “my mind is made up and there are no facts that you could possibly present that could sway me, so cease your incessant babble, you pompous blowhard”. Or in this case, it’s the equivalent of saying “It’s not fair!” and stomping your feet.
Even the Urban Dictionary agrees:
That’s Your Opinion
What dumb people say when you disagree with them. Who else’s opinion is it, anyway?? I AM entitled to my own opinion, no need to point out the fact that it’s MY opinion.
P: I’m voting for Bush because we’re both from Texas.
Me: I’m voting for Kerry because he’s intellectual, well-read, and he can eat pretzels without choking.
P: That’s Your Opinion.
Sure, the phrase would be just fine and dandy if people used it solely in reference to actual opinions (such as “I think ice cream is delicious”), but in my experience people use it just as often as a rebuttal to ideas backed by facts (such as “Eating ice cream too fast will give you a headache”), as a way to escape supporting their own opinion with a comparable number of facts. Sure, both sides may really just be opinions, but sometimes the only way to get others to respect your opinions is to be able to explain how you came to have them; to demonstrate that you are in fact a thinking being, and not just a feeling one.
Even worse is when the phrase is used against things that are not opinions at all, but facts (such as “Alice scored higher than Bob on the test”, or the example in the video above). It seems that these days there is an epidemic of people with entitlement issues, who feel that just because an official ruling does not side with them, it is invalid.
I found an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about this very trend which chalks it up to people not using or valuing critical thinking skills. I find this particularly interesting because it seems to me that critical thinking is something that our society is uninterested in in general- the amount of people who fall victim to scammers, or who run off and join religious cults, attests to this.
That assertion and the attitude it embodies have become endemic, not only in society at large but in academe. Apparently, nowadays an opinion will trump a fact, a reasoned argument, an empirically verified observation — even a treatise by an eminent scholar. An opinion is the great equalizer, and everyone has one. It silences all arguments, squelches all dialogue: That’s your opinion. End of discussion.
We seem to be witnessing the apotheosis of opinion, a trend that has grave consequences for all of us in higher education. A generation of students and others are training themselves not to become critical thinkers, not to search for evidence or support of an assertion, and not to hold themselves or others accountable for the assertions they make.
It’s definitely worth reading, especially if you don’t agree with the assertions made. Because if you want people to respect your opinion on the matter, you’ll certainly have to be able to offer some evidence to support it, and there’s no better way to do that than to became familiar with all sides of the issue. If you are unable or refuse, then yes, you are entitled to your opinion. Just as everyone else is entitled to ignore it until you grow up a bit.