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What Have You (Ever) Learned?

In the world of politics when someone changes his mind and takes the flip opposite position on an issue to one that he had embraced previously, the public reaction is often one of scorn and derision.  The term “flip-flop” is one that is used to describe this act of changing ones mind.   By scorning those who voice a change of mind aren’t we inadvertently extolling the virtues of closed-mindedness?

At our dinner table I recently asked the question “When have you last changed your mind on a issue of importance to you?”  I must say that I was pleased that we were all able to come up with at least a couple of instances, which indicated a certain level of humility, open-mindedness, and/or awareness. When I asked my USC business school class, however, most of the students seemed puzzled by the question, and could not recount a single memory of having changed their minds on a significant issue.  Observing this, I challenged them with these queries: “Do you think that you all figured out all of the right answers already?  Were you born with them?”

Most people today curate their lives very carefully so as to not introduce intellectual challenge to the ideas they walk around with in their heads.  News is delivered mostly in partisan ways, universities are mostly intolerant of different points of view, and most people choose to expose themselves primarily to experiences where their ideas won’t be challenged.  This not only leads to a society that is increasingly polarized, but one that is dumber.  Ask yourself and those close to you when the last time they changed their minds on an important issue?   It’s pretty eye-opening.

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