Button Up! (aka: Conventional Wisdom is Not Always Wise)

cold cold cold“Button up!” millions of parents across the US will say as their children head out into the chilly November air. “Don’t forget your jacket.”

And many obedient children will pull on a jacket or sweater, even if, in fact, they feel perfectly warm without one, and run off to play. But a few kids will stare back at their parents, eyes wide with curiosity, and ask, “Why?”

Why indeed? Why do we tell children that they must wear a jacket, whether they feel cold or not? The old-school, authoritarian parents will frown at the defiance of the questioning child, and respond, “Because I said so. Now do it!” Other parents may shrug and respond, “So that you don’t catch a cold. Everyone knows that. It is conventional wisdom.” And so, the child obeys. He buttons up his sweater and leaves his curiosity behind, and then one day, gives the exact same response to his own children.

I was not that child. I was the child who continued to stare back at my parents. “How can I catch a cold from not wearing my jacket?” I asked. “A cold comes from catching a virus. Not from being cold.” I was correct, of course, however, my reward for pointing out scientific fact over obedience of so-called conventional wisdom was a good old-fashioned spanking. And so, I learned that in some cultures, blind obedience to authority is much more highly valued than intellect, curiosity, or progressive thinking.  truth or myth

It is not possible to escape conventional wisdom altogether. It is a large part of any culture for people to hold onto ideas that sound wise, or have continued throughout the ages, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support them. Kind of like truthiness. And for those of us who tend to be progressive, out-of-the-box thinkers, arguing against ideas of conventional wisdom is about as useful as trying to convince a crowd of people in a steakhouse to go vegetarian.

And so I keep my head down, button up, and say nothing. After all, no matter how much research I have done to prove how right my argument is, I will always be wrong. You know what they say…majority rules. Argumentum ad populum. Everyone says so; therefore, it must be true.

 

IT IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE THAT:

  • Eating sugary foods will make kids hyper.
  • Kids who don’t get spanked turn into spoiled brats.
  • You have to wait an hour after eating before swimming or you’ll get cramps and drown.
  • People with Asian ancestry are superior in math.
  • Eating foods rich in vitamin C will make your cold go away faster
  • Humpty Dumpty was an egg.
  • The Earth is flat.
  • The sun revolves around the earth

 

God bless you, Mark Twain.

God bless you, Mark Twain.

Crown of Gray (a poem)

Crown of Gray

 

Listen son

to the words I say

my wisdom flows like tears

This gray crown

is the proof I wear

of conquering the years.

 

You think this world’s a rainbow

that hearts are good and true

but son, you can’t trust anyone

if they don’t think like you.

Those people are our downfall

those people bring us shame

and everything that’s wrong today

you know whom we must blame.

Equality? Love? Sweet promises.

Freedom? Justice? Lies.

Bitter is the flavor

to the older and the wise.

Your judgment can’t be trusted

‘till you’ve seen as much as I

‘till you long to grasp the ‘good old days’

and rage against the sky.

 

Listen son

to the wisdom

that spills out from my tongue

for all I’ve lived

and all I know

I pass on to the young.