Unquestioned assumptions

Our society does not value critical thinking and skepticism highly, but rather steadfast faith and decisions based on emotion.

I think I was about 15 years old when I first realized that most adults, generally speaking, don’t really know what they’re talking about.  This is not to imply that I know and they don’t — far from it.  If anything, I’m on the same page knowledge-wise.  Where many of them go wrong, however, is when they preach on important topics with the posture of a seasoned expert.  They spout superficial knowledge, heavily influencing impressionable young people who don’t know any better.  That “knowledge” is sealed into these young people’s minds, and it lingers there, unquestioned.  Then the cycle repeats itself because no one had the energy to doubt.

We have all been guilty of both preaching and not questioning, I think.  We preach because it’s difficult to be humble or we want to be accepted and admired for our knowledge.  We don’t question because it’s mentally challenging or emotionally exhausting to even confront the flaws in our conventional wisdom to begin with.  But really, how many false truths have been discreetly pounded into our brain through family or friends or school or media or society?  How many of our assumptions would we realize are completely backwards if we could just step out of our egocentric comfort zones?  And I’m not talking conspiracy theories here — I’m talking about our complete disregard for a healthy amount of skepticism before accepting something as fact.

These assumptions we’re questioning don’t even have to be big things.  It could be something as small as suspecting that shaving cream could be the culprit for your face’s vulnerability to getting cut.  Or that the shoes your doctor recommended to heal your back pain might actually be making things worse.   [And I'm not linking to these articles because they contain irrefutable facts; I'm linking to them because they make good arguments against conventional wisdom.]

Of course, certain assumptions can be life-altering when questioned.  You could find out that your trusty, rational brain takes a backseat to both your genes and your hormones more often than you ever thought possible.  Or you might discover that many religions are intricate metaphors that are heavily rooted in sun worship.

My perception of truth has been shattered so many times over the years that I’ve been able to build up a fairly thick skin when I encounter a big worldview shift.  One of these shifts happened within the last year, when I slowly came to realize that almost all conventional wisdom about finding a career path is largely flawed (if you couldn’t tell by the nature of many of my posts).

What I constantly wonder about, though, are my personal assumptions that have still been left unquestioned.  What am I missing?  And what truths have I only scratched the surface on?

What truths have you questioned, and consequently uprooted?

Comments

  1. Ryan Stephens says

    It’s easy to look back on the last 5.5 years and say, “Damn, I drank a lot of beer and partied in undergrad.” Of course I did a lot of that in grad school too, but I think too often I attribute a lot of the success I’ve had to the knowledge I acquired in graduate school about marketing.

    This post -really- got me thinking though. My transition to graduate school was just when I found out marketing was one of my passions; it was also when I still though money really mattered.

    Looking back on my college experience there was VERY little course work I actually learned from. But then I think about all these intense discussions I had with the 14 people in my tiny communications classes at our school of 1200.

    About gender roles, racial stereotypes, bullshit paradigms, theoretical something or anothers. It wasn’t necessarily that I was learning about “universal truths” about any of these things. It was that I was being challenged to think about them and to challenge the constructs of societal norms I’d grown up with.

    I miss unpacking these texts, and I miss the exhausting follow-up discussions with some really brilliant people. I wish I’d have seen it then. Thankfully, there’s a bunch of intelligent people on this Internet doo-hickey. I hope they’ll challenge me in the same way. The way you did with post Charlie.

  2. patambron says

    You are right. Adults too often present themselves as “experts” and as a result do harm to those they are teaching, the ones who don’t know any better. I attended “the best communications/advertising school in the country” and spent the last four years learning how to buy newspaper ads and write magazine copy. When confronted about traditional advertising losing its relevancy, our professors–the leading “experts” in the field– promised us not to worry, that these vehicles will always be in demand and there is always a market for “big ideas.”

    How many of my fellow graduates do you think found a job as a copy writer or account executive? Not many. And the ones who have found a job, took jobs they will hate out of sheer desperation and panic. Its a hard pill to swallow, but the best advice I can give to myself and anyone in my shoes is to ignore most of what was was taught, and start from scratch.

    The advice I wish I had been given in college (although probably would have ignored): The world extends outside of the classroom. You don’t need a 50 yr old professor to explain the current trends to you. Just pay attention and look around. Read some books. Talk to some interesting people. Decide for yourself.

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