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Being Wrong

This is a good topic for this week. For various reasons. I said recently to students something along the lines of:

How do we learn? By being right? I think not.

I want to be in a classroom where people have equal value no matter what they do or do not know. Where you can ask a question without feeling uncomfortable, where you can express yourself without fear of judgement. Yet this goes against human nature. We like to be right, being wrong can cause us great discomfort. It can cause us to examine our values, our identity, our beliefs. No wonder we all want to be right – it’s so much safer.

I remember Thatcher said “The lady’s not for turning.” A statement for a resolute leader? Yes. A statement for an evolving human being? Maybe not.

So when Kathryn Schulz popped up on Woman’s Hour yesterday with her book “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error” to discuss the opportunities shrouded in the hot shame of wrongness, I was quite pleased.

I was recently wrong. Well that’s leaving aside Workforce et al. I recently misunderstood Vygotsky’s Theory of Zonal Proximal Development and committed it to paper. I subsequently did not like being wrong. It initially gave me an unpleasant and visceral internal reaction. But when I got over that and looked at it properly I realised I would never be wrong about that again.

I will not hold Vygotsky’s ZPD close to my heart henceforth either, busily being grateful for the theory and my knowledge of it. I will only move on to the next thing that I get wrong and who knows where it will all end, but (and this, I think, is the point) it will definitely be interesting.

In the link to the book, there is a video. I played it to the class. It is interesting how when asked “How often are you wrong?” the respondents batted the question away like a fly. Ha ha, he he he, no problem. But when asked what they had been “Most wrong about?” there were pauses, the language broke down, people started visibly struggling. Wrong as a concept is do-able. Being personally wrong is far, far harder to embrace.