Being wrong isn’t just as good as being right, is it? Someone tweeted part of an audio of a Seth Godin’s speech in which he said that schools prepare us for failure, or for not voicing our opinions at all. I’m actually glad to see that there are many (though I still believe not the majority of) educators who have been trying to stand up for a learner-centred education. This is all too good, but still, the fact that we’ve been raised like that, has probably left some scars in some people.
We’ve been raised with the perception that someone always knew better, and that we had to seek knowledge in other people. Hardly ever did we criticise our teacher’s words. They were responsible for imparting wisdom to our empty little heads. “Hear this, read that, copy this down, and dare not say your teacher is wrong. We’ve been teaching you like this for centuries and it’s what’s led us to where we are. Why change it now?” How many of us have not grown up with the notion that we shouldn’t question the status quo? How many students out there weren’t afraid of putting up their hands and asking questions simply because they felt they’d look stupid in front of their classmates if they did so?
What about those scars? Have you ever had a discussion with anyone who could only mindlessly repeat what he’d read in the media? Oh, and it gets worse – they read only the headlines. I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen that. These are the kind of people who can’t support their ideas apart from saying that person X said this, then raising their voices and calling you insane because you don’t agree with him or her. And when you do ask for clarification or for further explanation, there’s none. All they know is that scientists said this. Period.
Perhaps they should be reminded that science has been contradicting itself ever since men started doing research. Every time there’s a new method for studying something, they find out a different thing. One day coffee is good for your health, the other day you read in the newspapers that coffee isn’t exactly good for you. And it doesn’t stop there. We’ve got to understand that in a society that is currently driven by money, there are many, many vested interests in research. How many times have tobacco companies sponsored research to say that cigarettes weren’t bad for you? How many people actually believed that by smoking cigarettes they’d lead a life of luxury?
It’s very easy to say that you believe in something and then get only people who you know are going to back you up to say nice things about your beliefs. If you ask me, this is similar to a brainwash. What sort of opinions am I going to get if I don’t hear the other side? And it gets more dangerous. If I’m an influential person, many people who haven’t learned to question will blindly follow what I say, based on my pre-fabricated data and statistics.
We can add to that the idea of predisposition. If you go to a comedy show, you already expect to laugh at the jokes. You’re prepared to do that. Your whole body and mind are prepared to hear someone talk and laugh. If you just happen to be at a club and out of a sudden the very same individual appears and starts his act it might just be not funny at all.
Should we go with the flow or go against it? Neither one nor the other. We should, however, question ourselves whether we’re saying what we’re saying because we know this is what people want to hear or whether we truly believe in that. Borrowing from the words of R.W. Emerson:
“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”
Going with the flow simply because we know we might be putting ourselves in a position for criticism is not the kind of attitude we should encourage. Criticism can be a good thing, we’ve just got to keep an open mind. No one knows all the answers to everything. We can only grow if we engage in real conversation and really listen what the other people have got to say. However, if you’re put in a situation in which all seems to have been set up so that someone can prove his or her point, simply walk away. This is not the kind of person who is looking for growth – this is the kind of person who is looking for worship. And that’s definitely not what teachers should be doing these days. Being right or wrong might just be a matter of timing and perspective.