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The Problem Is Much Deeper Than That!

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on August 22, 2002 15:17:55 UTC

Mike,

You misunderstand. I am not saying that I intentionally do not pay attention, I am saying that remembering unclear information is beyond my ability as I have never cultivated the habit.

Before I began grade school, my father told me that anyone who believes more that 10% of what he hears, or 50% of what he reads, or 90% of what he sees with his own eyes is gullible. At the time, I had no idea what gullible meant (actually, I thought it was a birth defect of some kind) but I sure knew that I didn't want to be singled out as gullible.

Perhaps that reaction had to do with my mothers brother. He was an officially certified nut, locked up and everything most of the time. To me he never seemed really different from anyone else, he just sometimes did things or said things that other people didn't. I guess, from my child's mind, that is why he was so often locked up. So I definitely had the idea that it was dangerous to say things which wouldn't be said by others. I guess I didn't really trust people very much.

At any rate, I didn't do very well in school as I spent most of my time trying to figure out what 10% of what the teacher said I was supposed to believe. I even reached the stage, at one time, where the school told my parents that I was probably mentally retarded (at least, that is what my parents told me).

What is funny about that is that after I had graduated from college one of my grade school teachers gave a slightly different spin on what actually happened. My parents had told me that the school felt I was mentally retarded and would have to work twice as hard as the other students if I expected to graduate from high school.

The teacher told me that I had scored one of the highest scores on the state IQ test they had ever gotten and that they had called my parents in to see if they could get me to work harder as it was clear my grades must have reflected a lack of effort (I was right on the edge of failing everything).

The real reason I was having such a hard time was that I simply could not figure out what part of what the teacher said I was supposed to believe. My mind was relieved by my fourth grade teacher. I know now that she had no intention at all of communicating what she did (watch what you say to kids as they don't always take it the way you expect). She told me that I shouldn't worry about getting poor grades on tests as I wasn't actually being tested; that she was the one actually responsible for the poor grade. She told me that the tests showed her what she had failed to present clearly and that the errors on the test showed her what she had to cover better. I know now that all she was trying to do was to relieve my fear of tests.

But, after she said that, I came to the conclusion that studying for a test was cheating (that is, I might remember an answer from the act of studying without really understanding the answer). If I did not study, I could be sure that the test was an accurate measure of what I knew. Oh, I did the homework and the reading assignments, but I never again studied for a test. Not even in college or graduate school. It made passing courses very difficult for a long time but over the long haul it turned out to be quite beneficial. By the time I got to graduate school, I was way ahead of the other students because I really understood what little I knew whereas they seemed to have only a surface familiarity with the work.

Most problems I could attack from six different directions, any one of which would yield the correct answer. In fact, it was always my position that if there was only one way to attack a problem, the solution was probably wrong.

At any rate, unclear things just go in one ear and out the other. The only audience to such things is my subconscious which they may or may not influence. I don't concern myself with that aspect of life at all. My subconscious does a fine job of solving all the complex problems of life (one hell of a lot better than I could ever do on a conscious level) so I just don't worry about those issues.

Perhaps I am insane; but, if so, it is certainly of no consequence as I (on a conscious level) am not concerned with the issue at all!

Have fun -- Dick

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