For most of my life I’ve tried to have discerning ears and critical eyes about what I read, hear, and learn. It’s not that I’ve just taken everything at face value and believed it all. But I think in recent years I’ve started to approach what I read or hear with more nuance. Essentially I’ve started to really internalize that there usually isn’t such a thing as “the whole picture” when learning something, or as a “correct answer” when trying to figure something out. There’s no perfect political view, and there are no silver bullets.

What they teach you in school, for example, is often slightly or entirely incorrect. But even when what they teach is entirely accurate, it still leaves out different points of view, different histories, because there just isn’t enough time to delve into everything.

At their best, schools have to make value judgements about what’s most important to be taught. Unfortunately, this usually doesn’t include teaching the fact I just described, “Hey kids, this isn’t the full story, you should know that.”

I think the idea “this isn’t the full story” is a big one for me, because I’ve started to internalize there really isn’t a full story in the first place. But there are so many details we ignore if we assert to ourselves we know everything about a topic.

See also Bret Victor’s “Reading Tip #1” in his 2013 reading list.

Speed of Light