"Hire a teenager while they still know everything
A piece of bumper sticker wisdom. I never quite understood why teenagers got so much flak for knowing everything...
In my high school years, I was convinced that I had made wise decisions. I was pleased with myself. Above all, I saw myself as a person with above-average intelligence.
I didn't do as well in my history and government classes as my others in high school. This was because I was simply not as interested in these classes. Why? I was convinced that history doesn't matter. All history is is the collection of events that happened before. A war here. Some disagreement here. Whatever. It's all the same. It doesn't directly affect my life. My day-to-day happenings won't change because of what I do or don't know what happened 250 years ago.
Same thing with government. What does it matter? Our government works. Other people take care of these things. I don't have a voice. Our system is too big for any one person to make a difference. It won't matter whether I know a thing about it or not. Once again, it doesn't affect my life on a daily basis.
What was I interested in? Math. Science. Things that I could use to change the world. Subjects that were exact. Not nearly as much room for error as the humanities. Come to think of it.. I never had much of an interest in English, either. But I never had reasons for that. Never could rationalize it. But what did it matter? Hardly any guys liked English.
Even though I didn't believe in much, the few convictions I did have I believed in blindly. I believed that the death penalty should never be used. Why? The right to life is vital. That's it. End of story. Now, I do not want to examine the pros and cons of the death penalty in this writing. I concede that each side has extremely good and compelling arguments. My point is as follows: I believed in what I believed in without even considering and analyzing the opposite viewpoint.
Sounds kind of strange for a kid who spent his first two years in high school in debate, huh? One who went to tournaments almost every weekend. One who had a fair amount of trophies. Not a top-notch debater, but not a bad one either. Why'd I quit when I was doing well? Well, one reason was personal and really beyond the scope of this writing. Another was that I came to the belief that debate was worthless. On the same topic, I debated different sides every day. Heads. Tails. Aff. Neg.
Where was the truth in this? I'm supposed to be finding truth. I can't find truth in arguing for either side as if it were right, divine word. Fuck debate.
It seems that while I had the spirit of deconstruction in me then, I did not have the spirit of construction. Well, I take that back. I did learn a lot about computers after I quit debate. But this hardly balances out my complete disregard for history, government, English, debate, and so on.
At the time, I saw all of my actions as completely reasonable. It has only been through a gradual process that I have began to see myself in a different light, and perhaps even as misguided.
I believe one of the events that helped shaped my current world view was owning a car. As someone who was generally disenfranchised with life, who believes that nothing is of great importance, I was changed by owning, and driving a car. I realized that one small error: a foot located about 10 inches to the right of where it should be, a wheel turned a few too many degrees, whatever, could change lives in a non-trivial way. How this revelation exactly linked to a flawed method of my thinking I am not sure: perhaps it could serve as a metaphor for errors in one's world model.
Another group of events that have changed me are personal relationships with the opposite sex. To make a long story short, I have found that I have previously made many unfounded assumptions about others. That I have needlessly been selfish. That I have been so enamored with myself that I was missing out on the big picture.
My ignorance dealing with history, English, government, movies, and the like has been revealed to me (on a number of occasions) through the game of Trivial Pursuit. I seem to be in the dark on such a large percentage of questions that others answered quite easily..
Yet another catalyst is my current college rhetoric teacher. Dr. Owens has taught us to critically examine our viewpoints before we set out to convince.. to be able to understand to examine the views of other's without initially dismissing them.. to understand the value of precise, personal expression. I'm not sure why this teacher has struck a nerve with me while previous ones haven't. I do know that Dr. Owens holds a certain spark, a real enthusiasm for what he teaches that my previous teachers haven't had (or maybe I just never noticed). And perhaps something is different with me, as well.
What specific changes have occurred in my thinking I find a tad difficult to enumerate. Now, I hold a respect (not a superficial one) for others. I realize that history and politics ARE important. They hold insight into human behavior and beliefs. They are a part of our culture. That personal expression is a skill worth being honed. Being right doesn't matter if you can barely explain it and you're arrogant... All of these might sound a bit vague, but I am still in the process of forming these ideas.
I also see this change as an opportunity for improvement. Outside my someone nihilistic views and math and computers, I did not have many other interests. I see this is a chance for me to develop what I now regard as important traits.. To make myself a better writer. To have a better understanding of previous endeavors. To not be so short-sighted. To continue learning the musical instruments I (kinda) play.
(Woah. Where did that come from? Am I making sense?)