Because you hope the facts will win

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 10:30 AM | comments: 0

When I was doing college radio, I had it out with a couple of the faculty members because they considered their jobs to be station managers instead of instructors. They insisted that there were certain things that they do instead of students, which as a tuition paying student bothered me. I made it an issue, which led to the one guy calling me names, belittling me, and putting me down to other faculty members (who all told me about it). This damaged his ego a great deal, but knowing what I know now about ASD and how my thought patterns fit into that spectrum, to me it was just about what I perceived to be the rules of academic engagement. Us students didn't have all of the answers, and we weren't very good at our craft, but that was kind of the point... we were there to learn even if it meant doing it wrong. Paying for a private school myself, I was very sensitive about getting everything that I could out of it.

While this seemed like a very matter-of-fact arrangement, my approach was to communicate in a somewhat more dramatic fashion and take stabs at egos. In my limited life experience at the time, that seemed silly, but also the only way you could get people to respond to you. The department chair, who sided with me and coached me in the process of communicating, encouraged me to take the drama out and stick to the facts. To her point, making an emotional case only invited an emotional response, and the underlying issue would end up a footnote in the process.

I feel as though, lately, the world keeps reminding me of that experience. While the go-to action was to make emotional drama, there was an underlying premise that fit with standards and expectations. I'm not entirely sure if I would describe them as facts, but at the very least there was an argument to be made that had nothing to do with the emotional stuff. Our world is like that, too, but the tendency is to toss the facts aside and revel in the drama.

Look at anything science related. Climate change is a very real thing, and we live in this bizarro world where it's challenged as an emotional issue. Vaccinations suffer the same problem.

In fact, politics are dominated by this. Decisions and efforts aren't driven by any kind of critical thinking, they're driven by emotion, and mostly pandering to an electorate that also has no time for critical thinking. You wonder how democracy can survive like this.

And yet, I hold on to the hope that facts ultimately drive the bigger outcome. We had a court case here in Orange County where, just last week, the school district won over the county in a dispute about zoning for a new school. The county's denial had no basis or precedent, and was made entirely out of consideration for some well-to-do people living down the street from the site. It was a victory for everyone who understood the greater good, but mostly it was a victory for the facts.

Making the right argument in my professional career, based on honest and critical analysis instead of emotion, has certainly served me well. Not only has it helped me get what I was after, but it has also steered me away from things that, upon a deeper look, were not what I was after. That's probably what makes this process difficult... sometimes it leads you to a conclusion you might not want.

Passion is important, there's no doubt about that. It's how you apply passion that determines how you move forward. Sometimes it gets in the way or drives you down the wrong path, but other times it helps steer you toward better conclusions. Wisdom and experience helps you figure out how to apply that passion.


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