Tyranny of common sense


Ken Robinson speaks against the “tyranny of common sense” in his second informative and entertaining presentation for TED talks. He used it to formulate an argument that speaks out against educational norms and how we force our young into linear learning instead of organic growth.

The phrase itself is applicable to so many areas of life. Until now questioning common sense was limited to observing that what most considered common wasn’t anywhere to be found. “Common sense isn’t so common,” gets thrown around as many overused and under practiced (implied action) sayings.

Challenging common sense is something that we should all do. Challenging anything common that doesn’t suit our needs the best way possible is the most worthwhile thing anyone could do. Should people wait until their 60s to retire? Should people work hard instead of smart and muddle through a unfulfilling career? There are countless examples of where things that are common and labeled “common sense” don’t need to be the case and don’t serve individuals.

Non-conformity is never easy. This situation in which independent thought is required to break free of anything that many would consider normalcy will be at the forefront of societal disapproval, or at best questioning. But the rewards are great. Many doubtful eyes were undoubtedly cast on the Wright brothers as they challenged the common sense that one take ground transportation. Anyone who retired from work in their prime years to enjoy the fruits of life would raise some eyebrows. Going back far enough it most likely seemed strange that some of our common ancestors applied heat to their meat and cooked for the first time. When it was first done, it wasn’t common at all nor were the benefits apparent.

However as much as humans crave approval sometimes the best results come from breaking free and winning the battle against what is often the tyranny of common sense.

The most rewarding parts of my life have resulted from acting independently and often in the face of the popular opinion of loved ones.  I’m sure my parents meant no harm going out of their way to express concern about going into business for myself and my friends who with great caring told me not to rock the boat because I had a great job.  It hasn’t been a bump-free ride but I certainly wouldn’t be as far along towards my dreams had I succumbed to what seemed like perfectly common sense.


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