Problem solving in a multi-colored world


Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities.– John Dewey (1859-1952), Experience and Education

These are the first lines of John Dewey’s book, first published in 1938, but I believe they still hold quite true today.  A recent blaze of black and white arguments center around the gun related disasters happening around this Christmas.  Advocates are yelling on all sides.  “Gun control!”  “Arm Teachers!”  “Mental Health Care!”  “Violent Media is to Blame!”  Even some are citing conspiracy and fraud.  But as Dewey, a great educational philosopher, had noted, life occurs somewhere between the Either and Or, where the colors become refracted and muddled, not so stark.  Life is so much more messy, complicated, colorful.  Yet, it is also simple.  Simple, but not easy.  Dewey also says, “But the easy and the simple are not identical.  To discover what is really simple and to act upon the discovery is an exceedingly difficult task.”  It’s so much easier to stick to the old arguments, to move to one side or the other.  But to integrate all these views into something that learns from the past, makes sense for the present, and prepares for the future, is so much more complex mission than many of us want to touch.

I don’t profess to have the answer to this problem, or the next.  But I do know if we continue to scream from our side of the ring, we cannot hear what the other side is saying, and therefore, never find resolution.


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