Entries Tagged 'Series on Beliefs' ↓

Summary of belief blogs, #5 of 5

Part 1 — Beliefs may be life’s greatest paradox.  We control them and they control us.

Part 2 — Where beliefs come from is not complicated.  They come from experience.

Part 3 — The reason we believe is simple.  Beliefs give meaning to our lives.

Part 4 — Beliefs are like rivers that cut through different terrains.  Religious beliefs are deep rivers cutting through mysterious terrain.  Political beliefs are broad, shallow rivers cutting through open, contested terrain.  And education beliefs are like either religious ones or political ones, depending on whether they are about private or public education.

My final words on beliefs come from Jonathan Swift and Cordelia Fine:

From Swift: “You cannot reason someone out of something they were not reasoned into.”

And according to Fine.

How’s this for a cynical view of science? “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Now I know why, even though social science findings have done little to improve education, educators believe in them.  And now I know what to tell TSVOTEP readers, who ask what I am doing to help teachers and principals improve education. I am blogging, teaching, and waiting for social science believers to die.


Different types of beliefs, #4 of 5

Just as rivers cut through different terrains, beliefs cut through different parts of our lives.  How do religious, political, and educational beliefs influence our lives?

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Why do we believe? #3 of 5

The headwaters of a river flow for a simple reason–gravity pulls water downhill. If rivers are like our beliefs, the reason we believe should be simple, too.  With the six virtue definition of the educated person, it is.  Beliefs bridge understanding and imagination in a way that gives purpose to life.  What does that look like?

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Where do beliefs come from? #2 of 5

Plain and simple, beliefs come from experience.

Some like to make it complicated.  They want to distinguish between beliefs that are based on reason and facts, and those that are not.  Is that important, if all beliefs come from experience?  Are one person’s experiences more legitimate, or worthy than another’s?

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Blogs on beliefs, #1 of 5

In TSVOTEP I wrote:

Our understanding of life is rooted in the beliefs that accompany and explain our experience . . .

. . . we feel a deep sense of ownership for our beliefs because, in the face of multiple possible beliefs, we choose them and hold them dear. We own them in a way that may be more profound than anything else we own.  (pp.  135-136)

In the mid 1970s my friend and I were exploring northern Wisconsin, when we came across a small sign that said the water springing from the ground formed the headwaters of the Wisconsin River.  We immediately imagined these puddles joining the Wisconsin River, the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and finally the Atlantic Ocean.  We were so intrigued by this image of significance and insignificance that we both remember standing there, today — more than 35 years later.

Our beliefs are like the headwaters of a river. Their significance is evident in the life they support as they tumble toward the sea. Their insignificance is evident as they are swallowed by the sea.

That is the message of Peggy Lee’s song, Is that all there is?


The song says we experience life in our beliefs about such things as fires, material possessions, circuses, love, and death.  Won’t we all confront the final disappointment, asking, “Is that all there is?”

Beliefs drive much of human experience, but we rarely assess them, challenge them, or change them.  They may be life’s greatest paradox; we control them, and they control us.   We cannot be forced to believe something we regard as unbelievable, but we rarely alter beliefs to fit new situations.  Instead, experiences that contradict fundamental beliefs are interpreted within the framework of those beliefs.  Such is the nature of beliefs.

Using the river metaphor, this series of blogs addresses the following questions:

1.   How does the flow begin?  (Where do beliefs come from?)

2.  Why does the river flow?  (Why do we believe?”)

3.  How are rivers different as they flow through different terrains?  (How do religious, political, and educational beliefs differ?)