036: The Stakes are High

In This Episode: In This is True, I rail about obliviocy, using real people and their stories as examples. Uncommon Sense talks about the opposite: the cure for obliviocy …using real people and their stories as examples. The two sides are actually at war, so let’s define our terms — and think about what the stakes are. It really is worth 6-1/2 minutes to talk about it.

036: The Stakes are High

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Show Notes

  • To help support Uncommon Sense, see the Patron’s Page, or the form in the sidebar.
  • I’m speaking at the Mensa Annual Gathering (aka national convention) at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, July 5.
  • Kit is also speaking, at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 7.


Welcome to Uncommon Sense. I’m Randy Cassingham.

I’m giving a talk to a large group next month, so I’ve been spending a lot of my time thinking about and writing that talk.

Once finished with the writing, I read it to my wife: that’s how I make sure the result is smooth and understandable: it gives Kit an opportunity to say, “Wait a minute, you skipped over how you got from here to there” or whatever. Since I can type faster than I talk, I actually adjust things while reading the text aloud, and it’s generally nicely fine-tuned by the time we’re done. It’s a fun process that I do with This is True stories, too.

The bottom line is, she liked it, and she went to bed while I finished up. When I got in bed she was already asleep, but that’s OK: I like to read awhile before I go to sleep — I think of that reading time as feeding my brain so it can think better. But I had to put the book down because something popped into my head: in my talk, shouldn’t I specifically identify “the enemy” to thinking? Because the people coming to hear the talk aren’t necessarily This is True readers — and come to think of it, Uncommon Sense listeners aren’t necessarily either!

And if “thinking” is the way to win the war, what, specifically, is the fight about?

Well, I didn’t want to wake Kit up to talk about it, or go back to my office and write it up, so I picked up my phone and sent an email to myself: the whole concept had popped into my head all at once, so clearly my subconscious had been working on this all along. I swiped it all out on the phone’s keyboard, hit send, and went to sleep.

When I got to the office in the morning, there it was in my inbox, so I opened up the speech document, slipped the new part into place, and told Kit that when she had a moment, I wanted to read her the new addition.

As I was reading it, I saw I had her complete attention. Before I could even finish, she had exclaimed “YES!” a couple of times. It summarizes the problem so succinctly that I thought I’d read you that section from my talk: it briefly lays out what “the stakes” are — why we need more thinking in the world, and what happens if we don’t fight for it. Here it is:

Let’s make something clear: obliviocy is the enemy, and it has declared war on intelligence, learning, science, and common sense. We didn’t want this war, but the world suffers if we don’t fight back.

And let’s be clear on our terms. When I talk about “obliviots,” I don’t mean people who simply lack intelligence. They’re quite often enough self-aware that they try hard in an attempt to make up for their slower processing power. That’s something to be applauded! And if they can’t try harder, then it’s time for forgiveness and compassion. No, obliviots are those who are stupid, oblivious, and are proud of it. They believe they don’t need to think because they were convinced not to somewhere along the line that someone else should do their thinking for them.

And lacking the guts to think for themselves, obliviots are attracted to positions of power, from petty on up, so they can feel better about themselves. They want to be cops, teachers, and bureaucrats. They’re the preachers who tell you a wrathful god will send you to hell for all eternity for having an impure thought — while he’s skimming the collection plates and raping the altar boys. And they’re running for office and making sure we don’t change the rules so we can more easily elect truly qualified representatives.

Absolutely there can be and are great cops, teachers, bureaucrats, preachers, and politicians, and I suspect the good ones want the bad ones out as much as we do.

The thing is, the potential for obliviocy is latent inside all of us. It’s fed by fear, and sustained by children being taught to pass mind numbing tests rather than being taught to think. So This is True and I exist to recruit warriors for common sense, a trait so rare these days that when I see a great example, I call it Uncommon Sense, which is why that’s the title of my podcast.

We can easily see examples of what obliviocy brings us, from the slow destruction of our ecosystem to conquered diseases making a comeback. And, of course, in story after story in the This is True newsletter so you can easily see the results of what happens when society embraces thoughtlessness. You can join the fight against this and make a difference whether you’re 10 years old or 100.

But if we don’t rise to the challenge and fight back, insisting that children must be taught to think, and offering remedial education to adults who have already missed out, then the situation will continue to get worse.

Those are the stakes. You either join the fight at some level, or you give permission for obliviocy to not just continue, but to grow. The world suffers if we don’t fight back.

You can comment on this episode’s Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast36

I’m Randy Cassingham … and I’ll talk at you later.

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5 Comments on “036: The Stakes are High

  1. The tool of education has been blunted. Politicians and the media know this and exploit it. The availability of instant communications has convinced people they can find out what they need to know, if they ‘think’ they need to know something, almost anything. Unfortunately, the “this is true” label is often not. Obliviocy will guide us only into oblivion.

    Yeah, the “I can look it up” depends on the ability to search well, and then evaluate the results …both of which require thinking ability. -rc

  2. Uncommon Sense — the ability to think for one’s self, under any condition, even the unfamiliar.

    My generation (I was born in 1950) wasn’t taught to do that specifically, but we were taught to think, to find out why things worked the way they did, what outcomes could be expected if action “a” and action “b” were combined, and how to prepare for the unexpected outcome. That is not to say that my education was “better” than that given today, but that it was different in a better way.

    I lack a college degree, but I can figure out most things that those with a BA degree have difficulty with. My late cousin, a PhD in Philosophy, after borrowing a neighbor’s circular saw, had to go back and ask the neighbor how to turn it on. Joe was extremely intelligent, but was lacking in common sense and uncommon sense.

    As you have said, “teaching to the test” is not the way to educate our children. Letting children learn, and take the test, and accept the results, good or bad, and learning from that to become better is what the teaching should be “to.”

    When I graduated in 1968, not everyone wanted to go to college, nor were they taught a curriculum that moved them toward the goal of a college degree. Some wanted to be mechanics, some wanted to be draftsmen, some wanted to be cabinet makers. And all of them wanted to be the best in their field.

    Maybe we ought to slip a little bit back to yesteryear in the field of education, and restore some of the “old fashioned” ways of doing things.

    Then, maybe we will not see as many obliviots in the fields you have mentioned, other than in politics. I fear we will always find an obliviot or fifty there.


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