On the other side, I can see where research essays have their place. You always need to be learning something new, and researching for a paper will most definitely help. To write a successful research paper you need to know what you are writing and make sure you understand both sides. You will learn all kinds of new material when doing your paper, and if you are doing one where you’re examining both sides, you may learn something about the other side that could possibly change your opinion and make you go further in-depth to really understand and appreciate your topic.
All in all, both papers are important and can be easy depending on the writer. You definitely need to have research in your education to keep you knowledgeable and disciplined in your writing. Every now and then, though, a personal essay is a nice relief, and can let you tap into your passionate writing skills to really bring out your best work.