I am approached a few times a semester by students doing surveys or polls for classes. I usually participate depending on what it is they need. For example, I am unlikely to sign a petition if I am not personally familiar with the subject matter. Earlier this semester I filled out an anonymous survey about my exercise habits. Today I was approached again.
This time it was a young-looking female student asking if I would fill out her survey about capitalism. Sure. Upon completion she asked if she could ask me a few questions, I was not busy and thought it was part of her assignment, so I agreed.
She proceeded to ask me what political party I belong to, I immediately thought I don’t like where this is going, I told her I had no party affiliation. She then began to explain her feelings about public assistance. She said it is not the government’s job to take care of the poor and that all the government programs should be cut because most poor people abuse them. She also said that if the government continues to give hand outs then no one will ever have the initiative to better themselves.
I just looked at her. What do I say to this? I really had to take a pause to calm myself before I opened my mouth. Some how I managed to politely say although I do not share her opinion I respect her right to it and asked if she minded sharing with me where she got her information. This very simple question rattled her. Has no one ever asked her to share her sources before? She said that she has friends who know people who use government assistance when they don’t need it.
I did not think I could be further dumbfounded but she did it. I asked if she had any other sources? Her reply, Fox news. So basically she is working on third-party information equivalent to gossip and Fox news.
The conversation that followed was brief. I discovered she does not know what the word equity means. I also discovered she does not know the difference between income and wealth and finally I found out that she thinks Doctors and Attorneys are the people who make up the upper 1%. It concluded with me explaining that it was hard for me to take what she was saying seriously because it did not appear she was informed and her information does not appear to come from reputable sources. I explained that if she had some facts and figures to support her claims that were obtained from reputable, peer-reviewed research then there would be something to talk about it but as it stands I felt there was nothing more to discuss.
I realize I could have shared a wealth of information with her from far more objective sources but the truth is I was so offended by her lack of knowledge that I just had to stop. I did not want a random conversation with a stranger, that I secretly knew I should have never engaged in, to effect me. That was one of the worst cases of ignorance, parroting and confirmation bias I have witnessed in quite some time. I am surrounded by well-informed, open-minded, socially conscious individuals all day long, I forget that not everyone is as well-informed on the issues. This was a sad reality check.