Thursday, October 14, 2010

Embrace Ignorance

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 One beautiful sunny day, my son was out on his new scooter...fortunately, he wore pads and helmet. "Dad," he said, "I'm going to ride down this street!"
"Are you sure?" I countered. Though a gradual incline, he hadn't quite mastered how to stop.
"Yes," he said as he started up the hill, "I can do it! This will be fun!"
A few minutes later, he realized his mistake as he threw himself off his scooter, going much faster than he'd ever imagined. Every time we pass that street, he looks at me and recalls the incident that gave him an abrasion on his arm, in spite of the pads. I look at it as an example of what you can learn when you ignore the wisdom of others.

One of the most annoying things about other folks, I've found, is when they don't want to admit they are ignorant. Often, people don't know they are ignorant. For example, I remember having an argument with someone, and it didn't occur to me until later that I had completely misunderstood their point. Why? I simply did not know that I was ignorant about a particular aspect of the discussion that the other person was more knowledgeable about.

As a writer, you may recall I spent some time reading The Acts of Teaching book. It's a great book for writing workshop facilitators, and it is brimming with quotable material. One of those quotes appears below and is worth taking to heart:
The teacher is not only a communicator, but a model. A teacher who will not or cannot give play to his own intuitiveness is not likely to be effective in encouraging intuition in his students. To be so insecure that he dares not be caught in a mistake does not make a teacher a likely model of daring. If the teacher will not risk a shaky hypothesis, why should the student?
In reading Peggy Healy's Endangered Minds, I stumbled across some more quotes that drive home to me the importance of embracing our ignorance, of learning to identify our blind spots and then doing something about that. It's important to be able to ask questions that are tough about ourselves...when you consider what that means for education, our role as teachers, I find that Priscilla Vail, as quoted in Endangered Minds, gets right to the point:

By engaging students only in a quest for the correct answer rather than for the interesting question, we condemn them to live inside other men's discoveries.
Embracing ignorance, expressing a willingness to fail time and again, offering others the opportunity to do so...these are valuable lessons to pass on to our children.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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