1. In the very first paragraph, Dr. Sagan discusses how we grossly overestimate ourselves when we promise to ‘tell the truth and nothing but the truth’ in a court of law. Given all that we have learned in this book over the last month, what does Dr. Sagan mean by this? Why does he think this is too much to ask of us?
2. In this chapter, Dr. Sagan discusses with us the dangers of what he calls “silent assent” to even aparently harmless mysticism and fanatical thinking. He shares an analogy of a prejudiced cab driver, and a crossroads at which we arrive in deciding whether and how to respond. In light of the discussion, what are the options and their consequences? How would you handle such a situation and why? What if the situation were different: you’re a leader and the unfounded truths are coming from one of your followers upon whom you rely in order to keep your team functioning. Is you response any different? Why or why not?
3. Some of the potential negative side effects that Dr. Sagan describes with respect to rigorous skepticism are 1) the creation of polarity (us vs. them mentality), 2) a perception of arrogant superiority or contempt, and 3) personally offending those whose beliefs are scrutinized by skepticism. How does Sagan suggest that we avoid these pitfalls? Does he think that some ideas are too silly or fantastic to be worthy of investigation? Dr. Sagan describes three ESP-related claims which he states “deserve serious study”. What reason does he cite for this support? Does he believe the claims are valid? Even if the claims are invalidated, what benefits might the exploration yield for the investigators and the claimants? How does this dynamic relate to a leadership paradigm? In other words, how can a leader avoid perceptions of arrogance among his or her followers, and how can a leader ensure that followers feel that their opinions and ideas are respected?
4. What are the two tenets that Dr. Sagan has been trying to impress upon us throughout this entire book? (Hint: read the chapter title). Define each of these two concepts in your own words, based on what you have learned. How are they inter-related? With respect to your future career as a hospitality professional and as a social scientist, how will you apply these concepts to your perspectives on work and life?
5. These two tenets aside, a third over-arching theme of Dr. Sagan’s writing has been humility. Recall that we opened class with an anonymous quote: “the wisest among us always have more questions than answers.” Countless times throughout these readings have we witnessed Dr. Sagan finish a thought with “but I could be wrong.” How often do we hear other public figures share this disposition? Celebrities? Politicians? Theologians? What does this say about one’s character? Why is this so important and integral to what we’ve been learning? Do you find yourself saying “I could be wrong” a lot in conversation? Will these teachings change your tendencies (or lack thereof) on this point? Why or why not?
1. In this Chapter, Dr. Sagan shares with us some responses from students about the state of American education described in the preceding chapter. Were the responses a surprise to you? Why or why not?
2. Then, Dr. Sagan shares with us a sampling of some parent opinions and commentary. What (if anything) surprised you about the parental perspectives on this issue? Why?
3. Dr. Sagan alludes to the “coolness” of learning in the preceding chapter, and now we hear from students and parents directly on the issue of how peer pressure and social expectations can make learning “uncool”. What do you think? Did you see a pressure not to be “a nerd” when you were going through grade school? How about now? What do you think causes this? How do we fix it?
4. One of the points that Dr. Sagan makes in this Chapter is the fact that retention in our public schooling is very low. Think back to what your learned in grade school. How much do you remember? How much do you think you have forgotten? In spite of this, Dr. Sagan shares some examples of extremely effective learning models and exercises. What is the common theme? How do we inspire the desire to learn and promote learning retention?
5. Although we can all agree that the education system in America could/should be better than it is, obviously there are a lot of different opinions on what (specifically) is wrong, and how (specifically) we go about correcting it. This is an issue that leaders in business and hospitality face all of the time. How can leaders most effectively address these challenges? Hint: Think about the Sciencenter story. What was special there? How did it end up becoming such a big success? What were the key factors in play?