Dan’s first cousin is Sue Gordon, a 40-year veteran of the Intelligence community. In an interview with the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Sue told future leaders that if you’re righteous, you’re wrong. (See below for more information)
Those words have been ringing in my ears ever since. There seems to be a lot of righteous people around lately. This isn’t about a person’s religious/spiritual beliefs, this is about reading, hearing or experiencing something without any background information and taking away the portion of that episode that confirms what one already believes. We don’t search further; we know all we need to know about this. We’re outraged, angry, disappointed, delighted – we have strong emotions. We don’t need to research this because we’re righteous.
I taught 7th and 8th grade language arts for 10 years. That subject includes teaching contextual reading. Contextual reading means you are also reading the background information provided by the author or sometimes through research. Something that might be confusing or misunderstood is made clear when one knows the context. Sometimes the reader must research something unclear – an example would be a novel by a British author in which the character responds to another person with the words “Cheers” or “Ta.” The British commonly use those words as thank you. American readers could be confused.
When I was a small girl, my friends and I would often play the Gossip game. We would sit in a circle and the first girl whispered a secret to the girl next to her. The secret passed through all the girls and at the end the first girl repeated her secret and then the last girl repeated what she heard. It was never the same thing. I thought of this game as I read Betty Bean’s September 22 column, “Censoring classroom libraries: Just more teacher disrespect.” The story is a classic example of the Gossip Game. Someone hearing something and passing it on. The story grows, taken as truth. Often the story is told by a friend, someone who undoubtedly thought it was true. If a story confirms our beliefs, we agree, and look no further. We do not educate ourselves.
In the comment section of the Bean column, an angry reader posted that there was a teacher in Knox County teaching from a book that stated police are evil toward black people and shouldn’t be trusted. Another reader corrected this comment, explaining that the teacher’s students were asking questions about the police, the teacher used Knox County approved materials, and ran the lesson plan by her superiors. The reader went on to explain that the book, “Something Happened in Our Town” by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins is not anti-police, but is, in fact, anti-bad cop – stating: “”There are many cops, Black and white, who make good choices.”
Well. It’s hard to be corrected. Pride and resentment often follow close on the heels of denial. It’s hard to look at the other side when we’re so sure of ourselves. We know what we believe, we stand firm in our conviction that we are right. We are righteous. We are convinced. It’s possible we might be wrong. It’s possible there is an explanation, another side. Maybe we should consider investigating that side. Maybe we should realize that we might be righteous, but we might be wrong.
Want to learn more? For more about Sue’s comments, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkWbRTQHOJA. For more information about Knox County Schools go to https://knoxschools.org. For other information, don’t forget your trusty local librarian. There’s informed internet and other types of research skills available there. Remember: Mr. Google is often wrong!
Cindy Arp retired from Knox County Schools as a teacher and librarian. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell. And she goes hiking once a week – even in a forest fire.