On Being Wrong

A few weeks ago, I vowed never to discuss politics on Facebook again. Vicious statements were being thrown around even amongst some in my friend group, and I realized that getting involved was only escalating people’s anger. Then a friend of mine who has some different political views than I do invited me to participate in a small group chat on Messenger with a few of her other friends. We are all from vastly different backgrounds, and have diverse opinions, but it has been very illuminating for me. In fact, it has made me question some of my own strong perspectives and, yes, to admit that I might be wrong about some things.

In this TED Talk from Kathryn Schulz, a “wrongologist”, in 2011, Schulz talks about the fear that many of us have – that getting something wrong means there is something wrong with us. It’s a characteristic I observed often in my gifted students, and I can attest that I am extremely hard on myself when I make mistakes. Fear of making mistakes can paralyze people. But overcorrecting for that can also have terrible consequences. As Schulz demonstrates when she describes an example from the medical field, “Trusting too much in the feeling of being on the right side of anything can be very dangerous.”

When we are certain we are right, we often make false assumptions about those who disagree. According to Schulz (and I certainly have observed this) we: assume the other side is ignorant because they don’t know all of the facts, then assume they are idiots because they have the facts but don’t interpret them correctly, then assume they are evil because they are intelligent but still don’t agree with us.

At the beginning of this video, I thought that it probably would end up being a poor choice for me to recommend on this blog. It’s 17 minutes long (way beyond the attention span of many students), and it’s from almost 10 years ago. But, as Schulz explains (wisdom she gather from Ira Glass), our lives are full of, “I thought this one thing was going to happen and this other thing happened instead.”

So, I will admit that I was wrong. I think this video would be great to share with students from 5th-12th grade, and with adults everywhere. Schulz is witty, brings in great examples, and the information is just as relevant (if not more so) today.

When I think about the things that I know for sure, that I am absolutely confident about, I can count them on less than 10 fingers. One belief I have is that we must try to understand each other instead of jumping to “the other side is evil” whenever we disagree.

I’m willing to bet some people would argue with that statement.

But, I’m also willing to allow for the fact that it might be wrong.

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

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