I was in the shower this morning thinking about a blog topic. A little last minute to be trying to find a topic you might think, but sometimes this is the way it creatively goes in my world. My thoughts started to wander and I began to think about all of the things which I had to accomplish today, not only writing a blog post, but also heading to my polling station to vote. To be honest, the thought of voting this year made me a little sick to my stomach. As I thought about voting and the shared opinions I had been reading on social media, (some I agree with, others I still cringe to think about), I realized that while we are all entitled to our own opinions and can vote accordingly, not all of us may have good common sense.
Ouch. I may have poured some salt into a few wounds there, but maybe I lack in the common sense department too. (Ha ha?)
I am not going to go on about tonight’s vote, nor will I throw stones at anyone who votes for a political party which I can’t and won’t in ANY way support or condone, because I really try not to talk about or argue politics. I do not feel that I know enough about “politics” in general to argue or to debate with anyone, nor am I confident enough in my own knowledge to quote statistics or pull out past practice examples. But, I will say that for this election I did do my best to inform my own opinion about the issues which matter most to me and to my family. Really, that’s all we should ask for from any voter.
Voting, elections, and politics aside, I have always struggled with these questions – are people born with or without common sense? Is common sense something which can be taught?
As an educator myself, I believe that most things can be taught to a willing learner, and surely we can teach and learn critical thinking strategies and processes. But what about teaching good, old common sense? Like knowing something is a good idea or a bad one or what one could do in a particular situation without something essential which is needed.
I think the first time I realized that not everyone may have common sense was in university. I was in a friend’s dorm room in residence when her roommate came in, flustered and complaining to the point of anxiety that the dryers weren’t working in the basement laundry facility — how was she ever going to dry her clothes? When I suggested that she hang her clothing on hangers around the room and off of her chair etc., she looked at me like I was a complete and utter genius. I shrugged off her compliments of how clever I was to think of this; really she was a brilliant girl herself. She was very smart, but she lacked a little in the common sense department I realized (not only by this situation, but also by others I would soon learn as well).
Part of critical thinking in the classroom is asking oneself if the answer or rationale is “reasonable”. “Does your thinking make sense? Is it reasonable to believe this?” I ask my students. These questions can be applied to the real world as well. We might argue that what is reasonable to one might not be reasonable to another, but common sense can also rely on good judgment. If it doesn’t make sense, then maybe I shouldn’t do it. If it doesn’t seem reasonable or logical, then I probably should not believe it to be true, at least not in its entirety.
Common sense, I’m starting to think, can possibly be learned through trial and error. If I do “this”, and “this” happens, then maybe I shouldn’t do “this” anymore because the consequence of “this” was not favourable. If I do “that”, and “that” happens, then I should do “that” again because “that” was a desirable and reasonable outcome. If we can learn from our mistakes, maybe we can learn the common sense to not make the same mistakes again. Maybe?
On the other hand, if I lack good judgment, will I ever learn from my mistakes? Will I keep making the same ones over and over because I cannot see where I have gone wrong? Does common sense come into play here too? If I have no common sense, will I ever learn good judgment? (I’m starting to see this as a vicious circle…)
I love the following statement: Common sense is like deodorant. The people who need it most never use it. It made me laugh the first time I read it and it still makes me laugh today. There is so much truth in those simple two sentences that I can’t even begin to clarify them any further, so I won’t.
My friends, the reality is that a little bit of deodorant will never hurt anyone, but a huge lack of common sense can hurt a whole lot of people. A whole nation, perhaps.