How to win an argument in education

Filling the pail

When the world didn’t end in a great flood as predicted on the 21st December 1954, the followers of Dorothy Martin were presented with a thorny problem. Many had given away money or left partners in order to be rescued by flying saucers from the planet Clarion. Rather than deal with the reality of being horribly, foolishly wrong, cult members largely doubled-down and became even stronger believers: The devotion of the cult had caused the aliens to save Earth instead of letting it be destroyed.

Leon Festinger and his colleagues predicted this outcome when they infiltrated the cult in a study that gave birth to Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance. People, it seems, will tell themselves all sorts of untruths rather than deal with the pain of being wrong.

This does not provide much hope for those who seek to influence the education debate away from early twentieth century romanticism…

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