Knowledge is basically just an agreement with the world on a set of truths. In order to truly learn anything new, you must push past agreement into the realm of disagreement.
You must push and prod, and challenge your previous knowledge. You must disagree with yourself that you know enough, that you know all there is, and that you know anything at all.
In reality, we learn best from people who we don’t agree with. They cause us to challenge our assumptions and seek out the proof (or lack thereof) of our claims.
“I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.” -Dudley Field Malone
Learning From Disagreement
Why do so many offices and places of employment offer conflict management seminars? Could it be because people don’t always agree?
Opinions and beliefs are diverse. One of the lessons life teaches us that schools seem to leave out is that people are going to disagree with us. The faster you learn this, and figure out that disagreement is not always bad – the farther you will go and the more mature you become.
I realize the quote above is a little extreme. We can and do learn from people who we agree with. I’ve had great mentors who have taught me things that instantly made sense to me, especially as a new believer in Christ.
But I think the point of the quote is that we learn more, and more deeply, from the times when people disagree.
When my views are challenged, I’m stretched both mentally and spiritually trying to defend myself. I don’t always change my original view, but it evolves into something each time. It either becomes more solidified in my mind (because I now have back-up reasons for it), or I hold the belief a little less firmly. I might even understand the other viewpoint and find it in my heart to respect some of it’s points.
Every once in a while (mostly because I’m stubborn), that disagreement causes me to change what I think about a topic.
So any way you look at it, I have learned.
Learning To Disagree With People
Another great lesson that schools don’t care to promote is the idea of learning to disagree with others.
Think about it. Were you allowed to disagree with your teachers? I know there were probably a few awesome teachers that allowed free discussion. But for the most part, my experience was that if you brought up a disagreement it was usually not well taken. I even had teachers who refused to allow us to disagree with the curriculum – even when we could prove it was wrong!
The only place in school I really learned about disagreeing was in debate club. It was sort of useful, but at the same time it didn’t really example genuine, everyday discussion. You came prepared, with notes, and you weren’t allowed to budge from your chosen position.
Real life disagreement doesn’t look like that at all.
The classroom of life teaches us that knowing how to disagree, and how to do it respectfully and well, is a very fine skill to have.
The phenomenon of Facebook is a perfect example. You don’t want to be “that guy” who can’t have a decent discussion, starts attacking people personally, and never budges on any point.
The same goes for real life. Learning how to object, to bring up another viewpoint, and to treat others well while doing it is an art form that only experience can teach you. That and a good dose of humility.