Topsy-Turvy World

Topsy-Turvy World

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

Topsy-Turvy World

I have often wondered why we are asked to focus so much on what is wrong and so little on what is right. I think that if we changed our focus and concentrated on what is right we would have a much better outcome.

Imagine your teacher hands back your test and he or she says, “Let’s go over the questions you answered correctly.” They might say, for instance, “Kim, that was a brilliant answer you gave to question number three” or “Brian, number six was some of your finest work ever.” I can’t help but think I would leave that class with a little spring in my step.

I love this conversation between Alice and the Mad Hatter, excerpted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Where I come from, people study what they are not good at in order to be able to do what they are good at.

Mad Hatter: We only go around in circles in Wonderland, but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself?

Alice: Well, grown-ups tell us to find out what we did wrong, and never do it again.

Mad Hatter: That’s odd! It seems to me that in order to find out about something, you have to study it. And when you study it, you should become better at it. Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again? But please continue.

Alice: Nobody ever tells us to study the right things we do. We’re only supposed to learn from the wrong things. But we are permitted to study the right things other people do. And sometimes we’re even told to copy them.

Mad Hatter: That’s cheating!

Alice: You’re quite right, Mr. Hatter. I do live in a topsy-turvy world. It seems like I have to do something wrong first, in order to learn from what not to do. And then, by not doing what I’m not supposed to do, perhaps I’ll be right. But I’d rather be right the first time, wouldn’t you?

Kimberly Kirberger

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