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My Ongoing Love Affair with Skepticism
April 8, 2012 - 5:30pm

Magazines aren't something that I generally purchase. However, when I'm at 30,000 feet jet-setting off to my next consulting engagement, or heading home to Boston, magazines are one of my favorite ways to pass the time. On a whim, I recently picked up the April edition of the outrageously priced Harvard Business Review. While reading an article about data and good decisions, one of the headlines made me immediately dog-ear a page and pop open my laptop. Part of the focus of the article was that businesses need to develop "more informed skeptics." My brain immediately leapt over to my "radical student affairs" post and connected skepticism to being a more radical practitioner. Questioning is learning, innovating, and being an agent for change.

According to the dictionary on my MacBook Pro (thanks Apple for providing this by default with the OS), a "skeptic" is "a person inclined to question or doubt all accepted opinions." The same dictionary lists "skeptical" as the state of being "not easily convinced." For me, the act of questioning is a normal state of being. While I love experimenting with the latest and greatest technology, I am almost always fairly skeptical. Healthy amounts of skepticism allow for ongoing learning through the act of asking "why." Whenever I'm giving a presentation to a group, I love those who identify as being skeptical. Critical thinking and awareness is at its finest during a process that isn't easily accepted. Perhaps the concept of being radical within student affairs is all about being a skeptic. Acceptance is the mortar that binds the status quo together. What's wrong with the status quo? Well, for me, the status quo quells newness, difference, generativity, and result in layers of homogeneity.

Group processes are often slowed down by skepticism. Maybe speedy decision making isn't the answer, or at least it shouldn't always be framed as being positive. Skeptics generally push buttons. However, when we love skepticism as being normal, radical, and part of our work, the possibility for doing far more than that which is just "regular" emerges. In Student Affairs, those who ask "why" are oftentimes on the margins instead of being in the center. Skeptics find comfort from residing in difficult spaces.

Questioning is a radical position. Let's keep being skeptical. Skepticism is not antithetical to growth. In fact, long term innovation is generally a product of someone continuously asking "why."

 

 

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