On Believing That Which You Are Told

March Of Folly book

My friend Elizabeth has a wicked and old-world sense of humour. [If it is old-world I think I must spell it humour.] I first met her when she had an article in the magazine for a club we belonged to about ‘Growing Light Bulbs from sets.’

Elizabeth is a professor of education. She once told me that the most frightening sense of power she experienced was standing before class. Elizabeth would stand before these twenty-year-olds and say anything. Anything at all. And these industrious students would write it down. Worse, they would believe it. For a while breaking this instinctive gullibility was a focus of hers. Once she told me she had told her students that ninety per cent of their grades would be determined by their sincerity. She waited all semester to be challenged.None did.

I really believe Elizabeth told me just to see if I would get it. It was not fair; I wasn’t her student. In her honor I occasionally ask people, ’Do you know the word “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary?’


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