“I think we ought always to entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine.” ~ Bertrand Russell
I was reading an email from a co-worker this week in which he used the phrase “the avoidance of doubt.” My first thought was that would make a great book title for a murder mystery. But then as I thought about it some more, I knew it would have to be the theme for my blog this week.
There are some things about which it is comforting to be sure of such as the love of family or the dawning of a new day, but “it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” (Again, my thanks to Mr. Russell for saying it so well.) Questioning opens the door for doubt which leads to inquiry which begets learning.
The idea of questioning the status quo came to mind as I was watching a video about students who designed their own schools. “It’s crazy that in a system that is meant to teach and help the youth, there’s no voice from the youth at all.” That’s the opening line to Charles Tsai’s video about Monument Mountain Regional High School’s alternative academic program. According to Tsai, when the project was first proposed, it was met with a lot of resistance from teachers who doubted that real learning could come from students developing their own curriculum, and yet the learning these kids demonstrated is amazing. “The… project itself continues to evolve,” says Tsai, and “dozens of schools around the world have already expressed interest in [the] model.”
The notion of questioning also came up during the presentation on creativity in class this past week. We were introduced to the idea of lateral thinking, a term for breaking existing thought patterns. Brainstorming is a common tool for coming up with new ways to approach a problem, but I was particularly drawn to the idea of “provocation,” a concept every parent has experienced with the incessant why questions from a five year old. How many times you have played that game, sure that you could explain a concept to the child only to find yourself stumped somewhere around the fourth or fifth why? And when you found yourself wondering why, did you investigate the answer and learn something new?
Leave room for the doubt because to be so sure of your thinking or of the accepted way of doing things is to close yourself off to the possibility of learning.