Right and Wrong — Teaching Intellectual Humility

Bertrand Russel

From Day One we reward students for getting the correct answers. Standardized testing is but one manifestation of this reality (and admittedly the low hanging fruit). There’s extensive and warranted criticism that our education system misguides students into believing they can be only right or wrong in intellectual life. Of course, we all know that there are no absolutes in human affairs.

Bertrand Russell is one of my personal heroes. Here are his ten commandments of critical thinking and democratic decency. We want all of our students to get a little closer to embracing these ideas every time they use Parlay.

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

That’s all for now,