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Voice: Don't ridicule those with unshacked minds

December 21, 2001

When my daughter Laura was in third grade, she believed that her teacher, Mrs. Billerbeck, was the Source of All Wisdom and Knowledge. If Mrs. Billerbeck had not said it, it was not — could not be — so.

Conversely, my straight-A college grade-point average (which I like to think was higher than Mrs. Billerbeck's) was totally discounted. I was totally "iggernut" (my daughter's word for ignorant). I knew absolutely nothing and was ineducable.

With the passing of years, Mrs. Billerbeck's influence has lessened. My daughter, who now has a grown daughter of her own who thinks she is "iggernut," phoned to tell me, "It's amazing how much smarter you are now than when I was in third grade."

Amazing, indeed. I've forgotten more in the intervening years than I ever learned.

But now that I am no longer "iggernut" I'd like to say a few words about mind sets being a detriment to learning.


Not all of us have a gifted teacher like Mrs. Billerbeck to idolized as a Source of Unfailing Knowledge, but I think it is half safe to say that most of us believe what we want to believe and firmly close our minds against anything that would upset or conflicts with those beliefs.

No one has yet cornered the market on wisdom and knowledge. Although computers have become superhighways, they are not yet omniscient. So there are many avenues to learning for those with open minds.

When my daughter was a child, I could almost hear her mind clang shut like impenetrable steel doors when I tried to tell her something Mrs. Billerbeck had not yet taught her.

Such a mind set can be disastrous. It can make one truly ineducable. Had my daughter spent one-fourth the time in learning new facts that she spent in resisting learning anything Mrs. Billerbeck had not yet taught her, she could have become a Rhodes scholar.

Not all of us idolized a teacher to the exclusion of all other sources of learning, but many of us set up other mental roadblocks, such phrases as "I can't," "I've surely fail," "I'm not smart enough" and "It's impossible" join "I can't believe," in becoming our self-fulfilling prophecy.

Those of us who try to liberate our minds from the shackles of established belief are often ridiculed and ostracized, if not crucified, by those who walk in lock step with conformity. They tend to believe that if they haven't experienced it personally (death excepted) it can't possibly be so,

Copernicus and other great unshackled minds of all aged have been victimized, and human progress impeded, by this type of mind set.


El Centro

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