The Fence Sitting Preservation Society

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Sitting on the fence – Michael Leunig Source: Beth Gregan

Our education system seems to loves nothing more than the hearty debate. Our ability to express our learned opinion on a two-sided argument crops up time and time again in formal assessment.

Opinion and our ability to communicate it succinctly, gains us power within a community. In education, perhaps it is supposed to demonstrate that we have grasped the domain.

We argue, and we polarise. North and South. East and West. We love our poles.

We cement our minds. Take a stand. Build our foundations.

Backtracking, communicating that you have changed your mind is sometimes respected, but most often ridiculed as a sign of absolute weakness.

Neutrality can be seen as disengagement, at worse total apathy, lack of commitment, even fear. Hesitate, and you lose credibility.

Sometimes, if a community is lucky, there might be some sort of mediating cluster in the grey zone. The peace keepers., the negotiators, the counsellors, the diffusers., the shape-shifters.

They smooth the borders of opinion, create the commons.

They shake their heads and conclude with “I don’t know” and mean it.

Could part of a rhizomatic approach to learning, be to reimagine:  the open mind.

Should we be constantly running towards the ideas that infuriate us, that tangle us up, that make us want to throw books into the fire? To run to these, do we need to stop asking about opinion and critical thinking, and looking for ways of asking questions that seek only to cross-pollinate, not to conclude? How can we fight the urge to categorisation and labelling and make ultimate decisions, that only fence us into our neat fields of our making? Can we forever be questing?

How else can we rewild our thinking, if not by running to the wild beasts of thought that cause us fear of unknowing?

If we could smash and remix every discipline we know up against each other, mountains would form, and in those new heights and valleys, might we discover something so far untold?

The truth is, I don’t know. I just don’t know.

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2 thoughts on “The Fence Sitting Preservation Society”

  1. This is an expanding post. I feel like you captured so much of my thinking this week, and you did a good job expanding out of the bicker and quibbling that happens in some communities and groups. Sometimes, we are forced into a group by course, by collection, or by other defaults. Sometimes, we get to select our community and our paths. The difference is seeking out people who look at things from many perspectives, and not dig into one specific point of view. We should be forever questing – asking the next question, creating the next step along the path. I really appreciate the idea of “rewild our thinking” and it is something that needs to be suggested, guided, and sometimes just pointed out. Some will find it an opportunity of a lifetime, and some will complain that you didn’t help them enough. Great ideas and connections. Be well.

  2. So true. Is it fear that makes us need certainty? Can’t win if someone else isn’t wrong. Not sure I’m a peacekeeper, but the more I get to know people, the less my set of labels fit.

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