Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Value of Wrong Answers

One of the things that stirs my mind is the notion of so-called "right answers". I view them with great suspicion. In academic environments, in professional environments, and in social environments there nearly always seems to be a "right answer" regarding the inner-workings of any given system of thinking. The "right answer" is given, discussed, analyzed, and set in stone for those wishing to contemplate the concept.

But what happens when someone offers the "wrong" answer to a question with a pre-defined "right" answer? They are told they are wrong, of course; that they did not understand the question and thus they must immediately take measures to adjust their thinking on such matters; to remember the right answer and commit it to memory so that they might instruct or nudge someone else who offers the wrong answer back toward the right direction.

The very idea of right is what concerns me. People who ascribe to the notion of right and wrong do not ask for your or my answer, they only ask for the answer.

"Only when you know the question will you understand the answer." 

We can learn more about the nuances of a concept by examining the thinking process that gives rise to so-called wrong answers. 

If anything, offering a wrong answer provides us with an opportunity to consider a different pathway in the field of inquiry. The underlining assumption that there is a right answer is used in every kind of bureaucratic form-filling agency worldwide as well as the ever-increasing examination theories utilized in all levels of the educational system, which ask people not to give their answers to a question, but to examine the various answers available within a subject and pick from them the right one.

This denial of independent thought might help us in our understanding of why the wheel goes 'round but it won't tell us why... not that the wrong answers can get us any closer, but we cannot know for sure until we examine them.

Advocating for "wrong" answers treads dangerously close to a path less traveled, away from the path of consensus; but, taking an alternate path is not done so with the aim of alienating those traveling with us, it is done with the aim of discovery in the spirit of traveling.

Arising from the belief that we are all on this pathway of life: exploring, investigating, ruminating, wondering, thinking, questioning, playing, enjoying, criticizing, rejecting, and ultimately, accepting... makes going "off road" a natural travel destination for those curious minds who recognize the "truth" inherent in a "right" answer as it pertains to the preconceived "truth" held within a system, but who ask anyway, just in case there's more that can be known or considered. 

So, the moral of this post is: If you get "wrong" answer on a test, if you make a mistake at work, if you say or do the wrong thing in a public forum, don't apologize ... question ~ which naturally allows others to question with you ... for you never know what you'll uncover. 


Unknown said...

You are bright, funny and extremely intelligent. All I would like is for you to do write a book - a thick one that I can keep as a mémoire. Why? because we cannot keep all our memories on computer, and I would So much want to add your book to my favorite collections, and when I am 90 still be able to look at it and hold it tight - Knowing that I knew someone that loved it as much as I do

Soph Laugh said...

Thank you, Lizanne, for what is one of the nicest comments I have received since starting this blog.

As a matter of fact I am hoping to take many of the posts in this blog and publish them into a leather bound book for many of my friends and family who have asked for something to hold in their hands... to skim through at their leisure and to have as a momento.

When I do, I'll make sure to earmark one for you, my friend.

Big Smiles!
Sophy :D