Late this summer, my family and I moved to a new town. Soon thereafter, I was excited to go on my first real bike ride around our new neighborhood. I glanced at an online map. I left my phone at home. It started out well, and the ride as a whole was lovely, but I got lost. So I turned around, retraced my route, came home and studied the map a little bit more closely.
Aha! — I knew the error in my ways! All I had to do is keep with my intuition and I would be fine. And so, on the next Sunday, I again got on my bike. I rode down my country lane past the farm next door; I biked past the chicken coops, noticed a garter snake or two peeking up at me from the side of the road, and watched the birds swoop by. Then I turned off my lane, letting my larger intuition take over, heading out for a larger adventure. Take two. I felt confident.
I got lost again.
As I retraced my steps, gradually making my way back, I recounted in my head all the ways that I had been led astray. Street signage in Massachusetts would never win any awards! Roads intersected in strange ways. And houses were oddly similar. Clearly the faults and foibles of the landscape were all around me. But at the end of the day, I recognized that I had no one but myself to blame. I presumed that my gut instincts, when freed of the clutter of minutia, would be my best guide. I was wrong.
Social psychologists have spent a lot of research time identifying all the ways that we are biased in our thinking. Here’s a list of them! Perhaps the greatest bias is that, at the end of the day, we think we can trust our gut instinct, that our view is always “right-headed.” And yet, here we are, wrapping up a year that has invited us to question so much that we once took for granted. Might we acknowledge that some of what we think of as deep, “right” instincts are often actually learned traits based on outdated information?
In order to check our biases at the door, we must engage in new routines and find new sources of meaning. These sources might be new authors. Perhaps they might be colleagues, teammates, wise friends. Better yet, we might seek out those from whom we have never learned before. Regardless, our new reference points should come from minds other than our own. Otherwise, we won’t know how to get out of our own way.
Dare we ask others to help us make meaning? This reliance on others, on community(ies), can be a fearful place for some of us to tread. But it can also be powerful and emboldening. And it’s an essential part of expeditionary learning! As an EL school, McAuliffe encourages us to challenge these sorts of assumptions.
2021 beckons. Let’s reset our assumptions in the New Year. Let’s seek new perspectives.