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Liberty and the Truth

Every relationship is founded in truth.

Education that is inclusive of parenting, mentoring and the like is in the business of conveying the truth. As educators both public and private, professional and lay person, we employ methods helping our children and indeed each other, learn the truth. When I presented this idea to a community member during a discussion over a book that he wanted introduced into our district’s high school, he had a quizzical look on his face. I went further with him on this idea. That if we didn’t have a clear definition for that which is true, we all suffer greatly. Imagine if middle school math class shared formulas for solving the circumference of a circle that weren’t true. Imagine what would happen if we shared the Newtonian Laws of Motion based on ‘my truth.’ Education IS the business of identifying, verifying, sharing, and helping others learn about that which IS true.

What is true? This question, although not currently in empirical or objective terms in our post-modern world, is most often asked in light of one’s feelings or that which is true for you. Steven Colbert hit this point squarely when he coined the term ‘truthiness’ and that American culture is, “divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart.” So how do we know with our head AND heart that what we as educators share is true?

The following is my Corvallis High School graduation speech (2017):

“Amid all the distractions, you’ve made it, YOU ARE HERE. Have you ever stopped and wondered why you’ve taken so many classes…and why ‘those’ classes? Have you noticed a commonality of 4 core courses that you’ve taken almost every year of your 13 yr career: English, history, math, and science? Why are those courses offered most frequently in a K12 experience? What is it about those courses that make them core courses?

Your education has and will continue to be the ability to pursue truth in the face of distraction in order to experience freedom. Lets quickly think about a couple of core classes. What is so special about math class and why learn all of those formulas? To be wise in the ways of numerical uses for construction, finance, and logic. Why did we spend so much time in science? To learn the scientific method in order to separate anecdotal opinions from objective realities. For more than a decade, you’ve been on a journey, a journey that will help you better identify the truth. What are a few of the characteristics of truth?

Here are 6 characteristics:

1) Truth is timeless. The truth prevails in the short and long term. Truth doesn’t evolve over time. Truth is constant and establishes continuity over time. Time has no negative effect on truth.

2) The truth is transmittable. The truth can be passed from generation to generation without degradation and only to benefit. That which is true, has and will continue to withstand generations of scrutiny.

3) That which is true is simple (and profound): The truth is simply understood and profound. It unravels the webs of distraction and fads because they are flawed and overly complex. William of Ockham who was an English Franciscan Friar developed what bears his name, Occam’s Razor which states that among competing hypothesis, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. The truth is simple and not lost among even children. Often, the truth is more clearly understood by children and muddled by adults. Be alert for the simple and profound.

4) Truth doesn’t shy away from challenges. The truth withstands all challenges and in so doing, further separates from the distraction and lies…that’s why it’s stood the test of time! Never be afraid of the outcome when an argument challenges the truth. When was the last time something that was true, lost an argument? The truth stands undefeated.

5) The truth is what it is regardless of what you or I say. Just because someone said it, doesn’t make it true. The truth does not depend on a personality or circumstance. The truth is not an opinion or exclusive to a person such as “my truth.” Any claim made by a truth is subject to and encourages objective questioning so that anyone can understand. No person has the corner of the market on a truth. Look for the undefeated, simple yet profound claims/ideas that have withstood generations of challenges, remained constant over time and are without personality.

6) The truth is freeing. The truth frees us from subjectivity, from dependence, from personalities, from lies…

A word of caution…

Be wary of the subtle deception stating that the consequences for not following the truth aren’t real. Within this deception winds a ball of yarn forming increasing dependence on faulty reasoning. Regardless of anyone’s opinion (Including your own), regardless of circumstance and regardless of the challenges, regardless of time, there are consequences for not following the truth.

So what does this mean now? You’ve spent the last 13 years preparing for the adult pursuit of truth, becoming more sophisticated in asking why and challenging….parents am I right?? This is the way all of us are wired. From the beginning, this is our blessing. We are curious, truth seeking beings. This pursuit is the connective sinew leading to adulthood. Asking why, presenting challenges that are thoughtful and balanced…to better understand and seek out your place in the world….that has been the last 13 years, that’s the point.

You are entering into the adult world of alternate news, fact checking, social constructs, virtual reality, and more. You live in a country and culture where exchanging the truth for a lie is quickly rationalized by short term comfort. Don’t shy away from the struggle to defend truth from compromise. Remain vigilant in your training and open to correction. Remember, the truth is what it is no matter who is in office, no matter the organization promoting an idea, the truth is immovable and is the north star to which you can set your life’s course. Be confident in that which has withstood the test of time, that which boldly answers why… even if its the 100th time, the truth will always be consistent, simple, impartial, timeless, and fair…even if you don’t like it.

Be independent in thought but grounded in that which is reliable and constant.”

Three final thoughts: 1) Understanding and applying the truth is fundamental to a universal moral compass. 2) The truth never loses an argument. 3) The truth is what bounds and organizes liberty.