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Are You Sure?

Last week, it was announced that Zealandia, a submerged, lost continent had been found, of which New Zealand was the tiny proportion standing defiantly above the crashing Pacific waves and powerful ocean currents. Thanks to some clever geological mapping and knowledge of zircon crystals, several scientists had (relatively) accurately mapped out a continent that that existed as part of Pangaea, the world’s first supercontinent that split apart 200 million years ago. That in itself might not be entirely true either, as some scientists believe that there have been 3 or 4 iterations of this supercontinent (the first one was called ‘Ur’), and prior to that, island chains similar to Japan today floated around the oceans bumping into each other (that’s how parts of Canada were formed…). As a geographer, this discovery was hugely exciting, but as a layperson, it has made me (yet again) question what I know, or at least, what I thought I knew.

Bertrand Russel’s quote “the older I get, the less I know,” seems ever truer these days. The Greek philosopher, Socrates, was once considered the wisest man on earth; such was his academic and philosophic prowess. Yet before he died (actually he was put to death for his views), he claimed he knew nothing. This prompted the Oracle at Delphi (perceived, 2,500 years ago, to be the centre of the world and whose advice would always be sought before significant decisions by rulers)  to say that only the wisest man in the world would know he knew nothing and have the courage and humility to say it.  

At LWC, our pupils, like all others, find themselves on the academic treadmill of learning facts, figures and theories to support their exam answers only to unlearn many of these again as they move to the next level of their education.  Scientific truths that we, as parents, learned in the 70s and 80s are now wrong, or at best obsolete (poor old Pluto and global cooling).  Such shifting thinking merely reinforces the need to equip our pupils with character and self-belief and help them to see beyond the status quo, to question what is put in front of them (brussel sprouts included) and enhance their emotional intelligence. 

The older I become, the more I enjoy having time to think and reflect, to put the brain into neutral and let it wander as the aroma of a caffeinated beverage drifts across an open space.  Helping our pupils find those spaces is a target of ours.  To quote our chaplain, we need to find more of those “hit pause moments.” It is all too easy to jump to conclusions in this digitally enhanced, 4G-sponsored, social-media driven merry-go-round, but questioning what is in front of us is best done in spaces detached from the frenzied pace of life and it is only by challenging what we know that the next great discoveries will be made.

And so, a quiz to finish.

True or False

  1. Sharks die when they stop swimming
  2. Still water is more hydrating than fizzy
  3. Lightning never strikes twice
  4. Fish have a 5 second memory
  5. Bananas grow on trees
  6. Fresh vegetables are better than frozen ones
  7. Mount Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet
  8. Einstein failed Maths in school
  9. The Great Wall of China is visible from space
  10. Bulls get angry when they see red

If you said yes to any of these, best start at the beginning of this article again, because none are true...