We have been looking at the importance of identifying and examining assumptions in class and studying how they form the basis of one’s view of a particular issue. It is often the case that one does not realize how formative one’s assumptions are until one changes one’s mind on a particular topic or issue. You can use Sanjay’s Gupta’s essay on “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed” (in Barnet, 37-40) or Diane Ravitch’s “Why I Changed My Mind” as models which you can use to structure your essay. The first section of your essay should offer a summary of your experience and knowledge of the topic and your initial view of it. This section should allow the reader to understand your assumptions, both explicit–those you consciously ascribe to–and implicit–those you may have assumed without critical thought or lack of experience. For instance, Gupta initially opposed medical marijuana because he believed there was insufficient research to show that it actually improved a patient’s health, and he adopted this position because he made the implicit assumption that the only valid research was conducted at major laboratories.
Gupta also made the assumption that marijuana was highly addictive, a position he later reverses. You should describe your former belief and provide details and examples of your reasoning and the basis of your assumptions. Was it tradition, experience, bias, insufficient research or experience, or even resentment that caused you to hold your previous opinion? Make sure that you define terms precisely as well. For instance, Ravitch argues that educational “accountability” through test scores is both too punitive and too vague. Use the rhetorical topics Barnet presents—definition, comparison, relationship, and testimony—to develop the reasons you had for holding your initial position and for altering it (20-21). In the second section of your essay, you should investigate and explain why you changed your mind on a given topic. Was there an event that was central in your thinking? Did you find convincing research for your topic or even a narrative that made you view the subject differently? Mark Twain called Harriet Beecher Stowe “the lady who started the Civil War” because Uncle Tom’s Cabin caused many to experience an emotional abhorrence of the evil of slavery even though now we would criticize it for its presentation of stereotypes. Like Ravitch, you might also point to the difference between an academic principle or a theory and the way in which it is practiced as the reason for revising your view of a topic. Make sure that you present concrete examples to show your reader how your thinking changed, and use research if it is relevant. In the final section of your essay, present the importance of your view and convince the reader why he or she should adopt it. Tell the reader what can be gained by your perspective on an issue and the limitations or consequences of rejecting it. For instance, Gupta looks forward to the research on marijuana’s curative potential for PTSD and its possible role in preventing cancer. If your subject can be applied to more than one field, show how meaningful contributions can arise from it. For instance, the organizational principles of search engines were originally drawn from library science, so you may want to mention the future development of your topic.