Posted on the marquis of a public middle school: “It doesn’t matter what you believe — only that you believe.”
Lets hold off, for a moment, on the standard jokes regarding the competency of public schools to educate, and test this proposition. Lets suppose that a middle school student could actually read the marquis and began to put its truth proposition into practice (and yes, the statement is a proposition about truth, regardless of its contention that truth does not matter). Sammy Student formulates the belief, based upon his school marquis, that good grades were not dependent upon completing coursework, paying attention in class, or even upon attending school. He receives an “F” (this may be a bit unrealistic, because giving bad grades could be considered too “judgmental”) but “believes” that it is an “A”, and his fragile self-esteem is, at least temporarily, preserved.
Or, lets suppose that Sammy believes that drugs were not truly illegal. Or that it was acceptable for him to beat another student senseless in the bathroom. Or that strapping explosives to his chest and blowing his student body (in both senses) to smithereens would make him a hero.
Would it be any comfort, or would it meet reality in any sense, for him to explain these things “Well, I believed., and isn’t that what really matters?”
What I “believe” is that this vacuous, feel-good tripe is both unlivable and self-contradictory. As Sammy Student so painfully discovers, the proposition does not enable him to live his life, because he would not live long believing “It will not hurt me if I step in front of this chicken truck.” Furthermore, the statement is self-defeating. If it does not matter what I believe, then I don’t need to believe this statement. Because it proposes an accurate assessment of reality, it is a truth claim. But if the statement is true, it proves itself untrue.
Is this what passes for education? Or what people believe about life? I believe so, and that is what matters.