On the Virtue of Changing Your Mind: An Appeal to My Students (Skinner)

Changing MindTomorrow starts a brand new academic year and I am brimming with hopes for you, my students. I love to see the “light come on” in your brains as we cover new terrain. I love those awkward, occasionally uncomfortable conversations about what we’re learning and how it is making you uneasy. Studying the Bible in its social, historical, and religious contexts and in much greater depth than you’re used to can have that effect. I love that what I do with you and how I do it has the evocative power to bring you into and out of moments of intellectual angst and ecstasy. I also love that what we do, day-in and day-out, brings with it the potential to help you learn to change your mind.

Today I sat across from one of you and listened to your youthful, exuberant, and (honestly) half-baked theories about things you have yet to really engage in moments of serious thought. That’s okay. I will walk with you and do my best to help you see things you have not yet seen, just as others have walked with me. Please remember: you are here to learn and learning requires openness. True education means opening yourself to the possibilities that your previous thinking about an issue could potentially be wide of the mark and may need some leavening. I want you to know that it’s okay to be wrong or ignorant or misinformed. We have all been there and we are all there, to various degrees, continuously as we go on learning. Much more than that, I want you to know that true education means an openness to changing your mind. Too much of what passes for education is the rearranging or affirmation of your previously held biases. True learning requires that, eventually, you will change your mind about something.

I will make that my mission this semester. So sleep well and I will see you in class tomorrow.

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