Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Other" ways of thinking and learning . . .

I thought this cartoon from "One Big Happy," by Rick Detorie, perfectly reflects something I've seen numerous times throughout my life. Grandpa is helping Ruthie, a young elementary school age girl, with her homework. He reads the major, defining portion of the sentence. She completes it:
Choose [the best] word from the word box to complete each sentence.

Word Box

"You buy food at a . . ." Grandpa begins. "--Park!" says Ruthie. "You know, hot dogs and ice cream from the li'l carts."

"You sit down on a . . ." "--Horse! Unless you're one of those trick riders."

"You play at the . . ." "--Store. . . . When mom's shopping, Joe and I play hide and seek in the deli section!"

"You ride a . . ." "--Chair! I love rockers!"
There's a little more (Grandpa expresses concern about how well Ruthie may be doing in school and she offers her perspective), but I think what I've quoted gets to the heart of what I'm interested in, here.

Ever bumped into someone like Ruthie?

It seems as if some of us tend to think in ways alternative to the mainstream. "Regular" people find these ways of thinking completely baffling. Ridiculous. Inappropriate.

"Quit trying to be cute!" they may say. Or, "You're making it more difficult than it needs to be!" Or, "Quit trying to think of the most obscure option. Choose the most obvious." Or, even, "Don't look for ways that all answers could work. Just try to think of the answer that most people are likely to think of."

And, yet, still some of us rebel: "I'm not 'trying to be cute.'" "I'm not trying to 'make it difficult'; I'm simply trying to acknowledge the truth: Things are not as simple as you (and, apparently, many--most?--other people) want to believe." "I see how and why you think ______ is obvious. But this other answer is also 'obvious.' At least it is to me!" "As for whatever answer you think 'most people' are likely to think of: Well, I haven't interviewed most people."

"You're just being obstinate."

"I'm just trying to be truthful. There is not just one answer to your question. So when you ask me which one is the 'right' answer, I have to tell you that there are two or three right answers. Your 'one' is not 'the' right answer!"
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