The Power and Pride of Being Right

Few of us like to be wrong, and yet we so often are. To be wrong can feel like being ‘found out’, or like somehow showing a weakness or failing. Most of us would rather be found out to be wrong in the company of friends than enemies, as though being ‘wrong’ somehow demeans or reduces us.

There are contexts when being wrong is certainly bad: when our actions cause harm or damage, but often it is simply a part of learning. We may be wrong when we leave behind our shores of certainty, when we reach into the unknown.

It’s not simply a question of being comfortable with being wrong: we may also consider how we discover that ‘wrongness’. Do we realise it ourself, is it commented on by a friend, or used as a spear to attack us? Each of those mechanisms may affect how we respond: defensively, constructively, or collaboratively.

There is also a consideration of how ‘permanent’ the wrong is: will it haunt us forever, or be gone by tea time? More permanent consequence is more likely to inhibit our willingness to be wrong than a transient one.

In theory, a good learning experience will hold spaces of varying consequence: spaces where you need to be right (assessments maybe) but also spaces where you may be uncertain or wrong, not as part of failure, but part of learning.

To construct and hold these spaces, we have to examine our relationship with ‘wrong’ – when is it failure, when does it carry risk, where is the consequence and how is it applied?

We take pride in being right, and also find power in being so. Hence we may lose power by being wrong, which is something we have to address at a social level.

It’s not enough to simply tell people that it’s ok to be wrong: our sense of safety is constructed, through experience and belief. Instead, we need to allow people the space and support to construct that belief, and that is partly through structured activity, and partly through the ability to test and sample the environment. To find their trust in the system.

This is why a consideration of ‘community’ is so important in models of Scaffolded Social Learning: social collaboration takes place within these community structures, and they are more than simply a registration on a system, or a ‘pod’ or group that we are thrust into.

The broad principle is this: effective learning will include the opportunity to find where we are wrong, where our space to learn sits, and to do so in a community that allows us (supports us) to learn, to safely set aside our power, and to protect our pride.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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