Essay Assignment: Being Wrong
“when we are stuck inside the space of error, then, we are lost twice over: once in the world, and again in our selves…In fact, perhaps the chief thing we learn from being wrong is home much growing up we still have to do…This is the thing about fully experiencing wrongness. It strips us of all our theories, including our theories about ourselves. This isn’t fun while it is happening..but it does make possible that rarest of occurrences: real change (p. 191).” –K. Schulz, Being wrong
It is indeed difficult to admit it when we are wrong. Yet, as we are learning in this class our minds are deceptive–we can’t trust what we think in many situations. And, we often use “self-justification” in a manner that deludes ourselves. Why is admitting you are wrong so difficult? As we have learned, being wrong is hard on one’s self–it means that something about YOU isn’t as you thought–you are not as smart, not as moral, not as consistent with your core morals–and that hurts. As Saito notes, even being wrong about something factual in the external world is a threat to your sense of self.
Yet, we have some hero’s in the world who have shown us that you can transcend your wrongness and become better for it. Allan Greenspan admitted he was in a state of shock when the global economy went down; Oprah Winfrey admitted wrongness when she endorsed James Frey regarding his self-proclaimed memoir of drug addiction which was exposed as untrue. After interviewing with Larry King and saying, “the message still resonates with me” she backtracked and stated, “I made a mistake and I left the impression that the truth does not matter.” In 1961 President Kennedy admitted he believed claims and faulty intelligence from his advisors and that it was a terrible mistake. Phillip Zimbardo admitted he let the Milgram experiments go too far and he should have stopped it. These questions can resonate deeply and push people to ask: How could I have been so wrong? Who am I now? Who will I be next?
Your paper should be a minimum of 6 pages long. As much as possible use readings/lectures/ material from class to help illustrate and think about your ideas.
This paper requires that you thoroughly analyze a personal case study where you got something important really, really wrong and how this error affected your identity.
Here are some questions to consider in writing your paper. You can’t answer all of them but select the ones that resonate the some with you and lead to the most probing analysis:
What were you wrong about?
And where do you think this belief came from?
Do you think any of the errors or illusions we’ve learned in class contributed to your holding this incorrect belief?
How did this belief affect your actions? Was it a sudden belief change or were you in the chasm of pure wrongness?
Discuss your commitment to this belief and what made it difficult to give up.
Acknowledging mistakes is an intellect, real and emotional skill–how does this play out for you. What aspects of your personality, age, gender, culture, or other factors do you think made it difficult to admit being wrong initially?
Once you realized you were wrong did you engage in any defensive responding? That is, what was your process of “self-justification?” Were you in denial? Does this justify your wrongness?
What led you to accept your wrongness? What did you learn about that process?
Reflecting on this, were you transformed in any way? What did you learn? How have you changed?
Schulz in her book about Wrongness asserts that going through this process, realizing/accepting wrongness shows us how much growing up we have to do. Do you agree with this?
Do you agree that wrongness or error is much closer in spirit to hope?