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Owning Our Ignorant Truth

At the time of writing, the world is in a world of pain. Often the pain felt in countries less privileged than Australia is held at arms’ length. Wars, famine, genocide, poverty can seem far away. Yet many Australian educators see first-hand the impact of poverty, addiction, family violence and other social disadvantage. Some schools have refugee families who’ve seen horrors and trauma in their countries of origin that we can never fully understand. Our First Nation children come into school holding ancestral scars of oppression and vilification. They begin the education journey from a position of severe disadvantage on all of our societal measures, despite years of ‘Closing the Gap’ initiatives.

As the world gets used to living with COVID-19 and case numbers rise and fall, we are greeted with more challenges. Our own general circumstances as a society continue to be complex and challenging - flood ravaged towns and countryside, and lives trying to go back to normal amongst more rising Covid numbers. Workforce shortages challenge the ongoing ability of organisations to provide services. Daily, I am in awe of the amazing perseverance and grit of leaders and those on the front line in the midst of all of this.

Leading in the middle of this uncertainty can be stressful and relentless. Keepingourselves protected, yet open to different perspectives on the world is not easy in this context. Yet allowing our minds to consider other ways of working, different opinions and options is critical to our adaptability and flexibility.

How do we make sure we do not fall victim to closing down our own minds to other perspectives?


Our ignorant truth is what we think we know to be true. It brings together our knowledge, assumptions, values, biases; our thinking and feeling. But we only really know a sliver of anything. A minuscule portion of the whole picture. Our personal map of the world. Scientist and philosopher, Alfred Korzybski, wrote: ‘The map is not the territory.’ Like a map, our interpretation and understanding of any situation can be outdated quickly, only have certain information present, or only show one perspective.

What we think we know is simply an abstraction or a reaction, not the thing itself. And then we take a little sliver of something – a fact, an opinion, some data – and pass it through many levels of distortion. The discussion we had with some colleagues yesterday, the article we read online, the way we were brought up, the education we received, the values we hold. These levels of distortion morph the original intent or information into something quite different, perhaps, from what was intended. Our children, as we as ourselves, are absorbing fake news all the time. We have a running joke in our home when my teenagers bring up something that seems ridiculous: ‘Did you get that from Buzz Feed?’These distortions become our model of the world. Unless we are very careful, we start to see the world through a very small window.

Our ignorant truth sits outside the way we currently see the world. It is all the things we don’t know. While Ferocious Warmth leaders have conviction about their knowledge, they’re also very mindful of the number of things they don’t know. I was in a meeting recently where a senior leader called some of the more vocal opponents of traditional schooling ‘nut cases’.

This is an example of someone not owning their ignorant truth. Instead of exploring the differing views, and provoking their own conviction about schooling, this leader simply discarded the other as ‘crazy’. Ignorant truth is not about whether we agree or not, it’s about whether we’re willing and able to hold an intelligent, cogent discussion to explore possibilities in the realm outside of our ‘knowing’. Testing our ignorant truth means we step into a conversation to learn more rather than step away. Being curious about how others see things is the first step in opening up our ignorant truth.

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Testing our ignorant truth expands the way we see the world and the way we think. Lead learners should continually seeking to expand. This enables and empowers transformation.