Opinions, Column

An Argument for Common Sense Classes

Growing up, I used to sit in silence and watch arguments unfold between my classmates, my sisters, my cousins, my friends—anyone really.

I quickly came to find that no one knows how to argue. We beg the question, confuse correlation with causation, or set up a straw man. As I got older and came to college, I figured people would get better at posing and defending compelling arguments, but no! 

So, I propose a solution—mandatory common sense classes. 

Last semester, I sat in my Shakespeare class, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to debate whether Hamlet was insane or not. But when we got into the heat of the discussion, I was surprised to find that my professor simply shared his opinion on how Hamlet is insane as my classmates nodded their heads.

They went on to copy each word he said into their notebooks, raising their hands periodically to regurgitate his beliefs. I was speechless. All I could think about was that one scene from Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon methodically undermines the argument of a haughty student from Harvard.

No one has an original thought anymore, yet critical thinking is crucial in developing common sense.

Another one of my favorite movies, Seven Psychopaths, really hones in some groundwork for common sense. In one scene, Christopher Walken’s character recites that famous Ghandian bit of wisdom, “An eye for an eye makes the world go blind,” to which Sam Rockwell’s character responds, “No it doesn’t—there will be one guy left with one eye … Gandhi was wrong!”

Whether or not Rockwell’s murderous character was right, he evidently doesn’t just believe what he’s told he ought to, he thinks for himself. 

This is what we need more of. We need a class that truly rewards originality, because in 10 years, we aren’t going to have a professor lecturing through an earpiece as we pitch an idea in an office somewhere. College is supposed to prepare us for what’s next, but what’s next is just us.

Another skill common sense gives us is problem solving. Like, real problem solving. 

When you were a baby and something was wrong, what did you do? Did you sit there and let it fester? No, you fixed it by crying. Whether you were sleepy, hungry, or your diaper was full, you realized that if you cried, you could get the attention of someone with the ability to help you. 

Of course, as grown adults, we can’t just cry and pass our issues on to those around us, but this example shows that we’re wired to understand when something is wrong and seek out a solution. As we grow older, we often forget this.

But if there were a class that reminded us of our innate disposition to problem solving—and reminded us that with patience comes solutions—I would be all for it.

I’ve heard of classes in which students learn by presenting counterarguments to the material their professor teaches. There’s actually one at Boston College, called The Idea of America, in which students are invited to prove their professor wrong.

This is a great blueprint for a common sense class—a class that pushes students to shape their beliefs in the arena of open discussion. If a course like this can invite students to use their intuition and not doubt themselves by constantly deferring to a professor, we can get closer to a valuable common sense class. Bring in themes of logic, psychology, and a reminder that humans are capable of independent thinking, and we have ourselves a class. 

Everyone could benefit from a class like this—to remind themselves they are smart individuals who don’t always need a teacher’s gesture of approval.

March 6, 2024