How to Be Wrong

From NAFI's Chair

How to Be Wrong

Randall Munroe publishes an Internet cartoon strip called "xkcd." A few years ago, he published one that struck me as particularly insightful and funny because the punch line was: "Someone is wrong on the Internet." You can see it here.

The reason that particular cartoon resonated with me is because I've been that guy. Moreover, I think we've all been that guy. And not necessarily when we participate in flame wars on social media.

Think of the times you and your colleagues have been sitting around the FBO, drinking the boss's coffee on a slow morning. Inevitably, someone brings up an obscure point in the regulations or teaching technique. It doesn't matter what it is, but it's something sure to get the room fired up. I have seen these discussions go for hours, sometimes with an instructor going out with a student during the conversation and then returning, picking up right where they left off. These can be fun discussions and good learning experiences if everyone involved agrees, at least tacitly, that they just might be the one who is wrong.

There are a couple of important points to this. One is that opinions are opinions and facts are facts. As an example, as I've often told students and others, you don't have to like the regulations but you have to deal with them as they are. There are mechanisms to get them changed, but just because you think some are ill-considered doesn't mean you can ignore them.

Another point is that although we all like to think we are infallible in remembering things it's probably a good idea to refer to the source. I recently caught myself misquoting the night currency requirements (I used civil twilight instead of one hour after sunset/one hour before sunrise by mistake) in a Facebook discussion. The third point is that when you goof, like I did, admit it. And make sure people who take your opinion seriously, such as flight students, are aware that you've made a mistake, owned up to it and that you now have the correct information. 

That last item may be particularly hard to do, but, as they say, confession is good for the soul. Besides, who wants to be that someone on the Internet?

Meanwhile, as this is being published, it is one day after the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Please take a moment to remember and honor the victims and their families, and hope that such an event never happens again.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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