“You have the right to be wrong” was a common expression of an old high school history teacher of mine. Some students hated this teacher because they thought he was lazy and a bit sadistic. He neverlectured, nor did he ever seem to have a lesson plan prepared. He’d just sit back in his chair, sometimes putting his feet up on his desk, and then he’d ask probing questions and insult whoeverattempted to answer them (usually for their lack of individual thought).
For homework he’d assign us lots of dry reading material, and then we’d have to write very brief papers on complex subjects, likea two-page, double-spaced paper about the causes of the Civil War. Believe me — this is a lot harder than writing a 5-10 page paper on the subject because you have to choose your words very carefully.Otherwise you’ll run out of space before you make a dent in the topic. Two pages was the maximum you’d be allowed to write. If you wrote 2.1 pages, you’d fail the assignment. “Verbal flabbiness”wasn’t allowed.
Despite his lack of popularity, this teacher had the stated goal of teaching students to think for themselves instead of merely regurgitating information we learned elsewhere. This istough to do with 17-year olds, especially with a subject like U.S. history.
I thought the expression, “you have the right to be wrong,” while usually meant as a joke in this class, was good advice.It’s not in the Bill of Rights, but perhaps it can be considered a basic human right. You have the right to be wrong. You have the right to make mistakes. You have the right to fail.
Many people don’tsee the value in exercising this right, however. I think this is also a major component in the fear of public speaking. What if you take a stand on something, and you’re shot down, proven utterlywrong?
What’s so terrible about being wrong? If you’re never wrong, to me that indicates you aren’t growing. I hope that five years from now, I’ll look back on some of my blog posts from this...
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