The Test of a First-Rate Intelligence…

Rachel Dolezal. She is puzzle, wrapped in a mystery, lined with an enigma. If you haven’t been keeping up with the whole saga of Rachel Dolezal, others have summarized it better than I could.

What’s been particularly interesting to me, however, isn’t so much her deception/delusion/possible mental illness, but that so many have used Dolezal as a stand-in, as a symbol of their ability to either reconcile or reject all sorts of other political and social belief systems.

This phenomena, of turning actual people into SYMBOLS, isn’t just limited to issues having to do with race and stereotyping.

As a teacher, I see it a lot. I have heard teachers say that they know that research has proven that Restorative Justice improves the morale of a student body, BUT they just feel that what “these kids” need is… more discipline, more boredom, more… something awful. Then they attempt to explain away their convictions, as if there is some logical connection between the two belief systems.

I’ve heard teachers say that parents don’t know how to consistently discipline their kids, and then talk about how they refuse to call home and tell parents when a student is misbehaving. Then I’ve heard teachers try to rationalize their refusal through convoluted reasoning.

In the world of Rachel Dolezal, I have lots and lots of friends trying to reconcile the fact that they feel Rachel Dolezal’s desires to change her outward identity are wrong, but Caitlyn Jenner’s actions are desires to change her outward identity are perfectly fine. They are twisting themselves into knots looking for just the right theory to unify these two different ideas.

I say, stop it. Why must your ideas and emotions be consistent at all times? We are not robots. Sometimes gut feelings are okay.

Here’s a favorite quote of mine from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

In fact, it’s incredibly rare for people to be completely ethically consistent. See for yourself. Check out this fun little test: Philosophical Health Test.

I think it is perfectly okay to have a feeling about something, but still behave differently. If research says one thing, but you feel another thing, it’s okay for there to be dissonance as you do what has been proven to work. If you think Dolezal is out of line, but Caitlyn Jenner is not, it’s okay to not be able to come up with a logical reason why. Sometimes feelings really are enough.

It’s okay to feel things and not act on them, just as it’s okay to feel things and act on them. They are feelings. They do not have to line up with your morals. Nor do they have to line up with your actions.

The same way that a student can FEEL like they want to nap during class doesn’t mean that they need to act on that feeling.

It’s okay to live with a little cognitive dissonance.


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