I believe in admitting when you’re wrong. It is not an easy thing to do, but it’s necessary. I count myself as fortunate to have met Neil Sherwood. He had been a teacher in a high school in Indiana before I married into his family. Our meetings were usually filled with half a dozen other relatives and we didn’t have many chances to talk, or if we did, I didn’t appreciate those talks as much as I should have.
After the horror of the cancer that finally took him, I was given a podium and some books his daughter thought I might enjoy. That podium is something I still love to touch. I don’t know if he used it in his classes, but that doesn’t matter to me. I stand before it and read my own work, hoping to catch mistakes before other people notice them. In one of the books I received, there was a note. To someone named Linda, he had written, “I goofed … you were right.”
The note went on about a matter of the electorate college. He even explained what he was thinking and why he was wrong. That’s when I got a good sense of how great of a teacher he must have been. In the college I attended, I was talking with one of my professors. Another man came in to the office. I don’t know how the conversation began but he thought that an ‘em’ was the smallest newspaper type size. I told him that no, it’s an ‘en’. I may not have known much then, but I knew that for a fact. I used it in Scrabble many times. The man didn’t just disagree with me, he said I was wrong. I got a look from my professor that told me not to press the issue. Apparently, that was the Dean and the Dean was always correct.
There was no satisfaction when I looked it up in the dictionary at home, just to make sure. I knew then I’d never learn what I needed to know from a program that demanded that the Dean need not be corrected.
In the last week, President Obama admitted he made mistakes in the choices he made for his cabinet positions. I smiled because he was able to admit this. When I heard him say it, I knew he would be able to lead America very well. Even if you didn’t vote for him, he’s going to be an excellent teacher. After you admit you’re wrong, you can begin to learn from your mistakes.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.