Thursday, May 10, 2007

You can do anything, but you can't do everything

When I was younger, teachers would sometimes reminded us not to answer questions to tests in a way that they coined the "shotgun method," which is just writing down everything you can think of relevant to the question and hoping that somewhere in there is the right answer. Apparently, this was nefarious and teachers weren't going to get pushed around by a bunch of little kids screaming, "but look! I have the answer right there!"

Aside from the obvious flashback fear it gives me to think of prepubescent kids being told about how a shotgun works, the whole phenomenon frustrates me to this very day. Whose to say that there is only one right answer? Clearly, if an answer contradicts itself it isn't as good, but an answer that approaches all side of the issue should be valued, perhaps valued even above the conventional one-sided approach.

Anyway, I've come to like the idea so much that I've decided to adopt it as my new approach to thinking about stuff. The shotgun approach. Chuck Klosterman once talked in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs about how he believed in everything. I don't agree with him completely, but there's definitely something appealing about that; something so appealing that it just might be worth society considering you a hypocrite. Many of us have been told our whole lives that we can do anything. I've taken that to heart, and I still do. But implicit in that advice that you can do anything is the slightly condescending warning that you can't do everything.

But why not? So what if I don't study enough for the test to know exactly what the supposed "correct" answer is? It might be easier for a teacher to grade, but there's no reason we have to continue to impose those restrictions on ourselves once we leave school. What's wrong with the shotgun approach to life?