One of the things we are told, nay coerced, to do well early in life is to be right. Being right is a big part of our education system. If you don’t get the right answer, you will lose points. Winners are those who get the most right answers and thus the maximum marks on tests. This approach works in the context of schools and colleges especially in science and maths where there is little or no ambiguity about the rightness of answers. And then we step out of these cocoons into the real world to discover that there is no such thing as an unambiguously right answer.
It’s little wonder that we are dissatisfied with how education prepares us for life. In fact, it does not prepare us for anything in particular. Not even work. In the real world, it’s not about locating the right answers. It’s about working with others towards finding the least wrong answers. It’s about asking the right questions. I’m not saying that we do away with math and sciences and the current methods of testing our skills in them. I’m saying that we ought to perhaps place more emphasis on the indiscernible. Perhaps we ought to help our children gain better appreciation of such concepts as ambiguity, uncertainty, context and perspective earlier in their lives. Perhaps we ought to have a system which rewards them for asking the right questions instead of finding the right answers.
Einstein described genius as the ability to hold conflicting thoughts in one’s head. He described genius as a state of mind which appreciates the relativity of truth, which is to say that there is a context intrinsic to truth. If we emphasized the absoluteness of truth less, perhaps we will create a society in which genius flourishes and is found to be in abundance. More importantly, we will perhaps create an environment in which people are kinder and gentler towards and less judgmental of their fellow citizens.