The Fear Of Being Wrong


As a student in public high school, I learned a lot of things, some academic, some not. I learned the Pythagorean Theorem, how to diagram a sentence, how to successfully people watch without the people I was watching knowing (thanks, mom!) and how to write an essay to get myself into college. I also learned that I should be afraid to be wrong.

With scholarships, class standings, and college acceptances on the line, I, along with many of my peers, grew to be scared of being wrong. We wanted the top grades so we could get into good schools, get money for the ever-rising cost of college, and in return we forgot that we were in school so that the teachers who were supposed to be there to nurture our brains could let us be wrong and then show us why the right answer was right. Well, that helped me get through high school because that was how things were structured. I passed standardized tests with flying colors and graduated with honors, was the president of the choir, a captain of the color guard and had an acceptance to one of the best music schools in the state. It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college that this intimidation, created by the high-stakes standardized testing culture, came back to bite me in the butt.

I remember my applied professor asking me if I knew what something meant, and out of habit saying “yes” but really having no idea. Like I had grown to do whenever this situation occurred in high school, I got on google after I left her office and looked up whatever it was that I lied about knowing, and then went on my merry way. Shortly after that, a friend posted on Facebook about being thankful that she was in school, because it was OK to be wrong, and pretty soon she would graduate and be on her own, and have to make it without someone there to correct her mistakes. Her post resonated with me, and for the past three years I’ve been working to make sure that I let myself be wrong sometimes.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t prepare for classes, or do the reading and the homework that are assigned, but I am no longer afraid of admitting that I don’t know everything there is to know. As a future teacher myself, I hope to show my students that it is OK to be an 18 year old who doesn’t know everything there is to know about their chosen field of study, much less fields they aren’t going to study in depth after high school. If you think you know everything there is to know about something you should find something new to do. There is no way to know everything there is to know—that’s what is so wonderful about learning. Things are constantly changing and evolving in every field of study, and if you truly love learning, you can do it until the day you die.

So, to all of you I say this: Let yourself be wrong. It’s OK not to know everything, and if you pretend you do, you’ll probably actually keep yourself from learning something. Read books, talk to people, and take in your surroundings instead of just learning what you think you should know and I’d be willing to bet you learn more than you could have ever imagined.