A vindicated truth and the downside of being right

A vindicated #truth and the downside of being #rightEarly in my high school experience, I had the joy of returning to my locker only to discover that someone had broken in and stolen not only my bag of gym clothes but a stack of three ringed binders as well containing all my homework.

Afterward, I took to carrying the full day’s notebooks, other day-to-day critical supplies in my backpack all day rather than trust the locker with anything that might affect my grades. Unfortunately, this left little room for my larger textbooks, which I would then have to load up in my arms and carry home separately as needed.

Therefore I was thrilled when it came time to study Shakespeare in my English class. My mom was (and is) a bit of a British History buff and possessed a huge volume of Shakespeare’s complete works, meaning I wouldn’t have to lug my textbook home for weeks. Oh, happy times!

The selection was Romeo and Juliet, specifically the balcony scene, and the assignment was simple; memorize the entire speech. For the next several nights, I read my mom’s book over and over, practicing the words out loud. On the day of the test, my pencil flew across my paper as I recited the lines in my head, and though I wasn’t the among the first to turn in my paper, I was fairly certain I’d aced it.

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool. – William Shakespeare

Only when the tests were handed back, a large X crossed through a full section of my response. The words I’d used, well, they weren’t supposed to be there. Comparing my test with the others in the class, my response an entire extra paragraph and more. It was as if I had invented the lines, except, I know I am NO Shakespeare.

Flabbergasted, I took my paper home. Compared to my mom’s book, it to be a word for word copy. What in the world? I dusted off my textbook and opened it to the same scene. Sure enough, the words that I saw so clearly in black and white in one text were missing in the other. My jaw dropped as I realized my fellow students and I were being censored.

I struggled in light of this discovery with what to do. Surely my English teacher had to know the real contents of the play? He was supposed to be teaching it after all. But maybe not. Would he really accept that my version was the correct one? I’d have to admit then that I wasn’t using school approved books and the assignment had been to memorize the scene from the textbook.

In the end, I did point out to my teacher that my version was from another source, but didn’t challenge the grade further when my teacher didn’t immediately whip out his grade book in light of this evidence. It was okay, I told myself. It wasn’t like I was in any jeopardy failing the course over a few missed points.

Later, once we’d finished the section, our teacher rewarded us by playing the movie. The class sat back as the lights went down while the Montagues and Capulets exchanged verbal barbs. Juliet walked out on the balcony. A girl in my class started speaking along with the actress followed by another. I bit my tongue. The movie was suddenly exponentially more interesting.

The girls in my class stopped talking. However, Juliet didn’t. Instead, lines which appeared on my test paper, but not on theirs, poured from Juliet’s mouth. A general sound of huh? went up in the room. And there it was. I was vindicated.

But still my grade remained exactly as it was.

I found myself in the midst of another quandary. I knew I had just been indisputably proven right, but the only other person who knew that was my teacher. I could push again for a grade adjustment and shame him with the video evidence backing my claim, but in doing so I would have also proven the rest of the class, those that didn’t go rogue (for the sake of convenience) and memorize forbidden uncensored text, were as wrong as our teacher was. In short, I might get an A on one test, but I would have turned the entire class, as well of as the teacher, against me in short order.

I learned a long time ago the value of picking my battles, and this wasn’t one of them. Validation (this time) simply wasn’t worth the price.

I may have abandoned an unwinnable fight, but I didn’t, however, abandon my truth. The experience, so early on in my high school career, taught me the fallacy of believing everything you read, or trusting in one single source, no matter how credible they might seem. The truth is we are all human and humans make mistakes. And humans, even those with an education, a position of authority, and/or the best of intentions, can be equally lead astray.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

In the age of post-truth, it is easy to lock yourself in a bubble, surrounded by mountains of evidence that support all the reasons you know your truth to be right. So I challenge you this year to occasionally play devil’s advocate. Allow yourself to try out being wrong from time to time and see how it fits. Ask yourself, is your version of the balcony scene complete, or might there be other lines, unwritten?

While I don’t expect anyone to change their mind from the experience, I hope that by doing so you might be able to identify the gaps in your truth and become more willing to ask questions than accept a story at face value.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future. – George Bernard Shaw

* quotes courtesy of http://www.brainyquotes.com. Image courtesy of http://www.pexels.com

35 thoughts on “A vindicated truth and the downside of being right

  1. Wow, that makes *me* want to go back and give that teacher a piece of my mind! But you’re right, some battles aren’t worth fighting. And to learn so early in your life the crucial lesson that even teachers can be wrong might even be worth the aggravation of the poor mark…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. He was fresh out of school himself, so I will give him some credit for being inexperienced as to how to handle a situation like that. Luckily for me, my teacher in my final year was amazing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah, newbie teacher! That explains a lot, and makes me have more compassion on him. And even better on you for not making him look bad in front of everyone else!
        And I’m glad you had a better teacher later.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What the heck version of the play were they using? That is probably one of the most well-known pieces of theater in the world. If I had been in the class I would have demanded a new textbook as soon as we got to that chapter. I want to go back in time right now and avenge this piece of epic injustice on your behalf.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Looking back on it, I am surprised the textbook company got away with it too. But I guess they had to trim the word / page count some how. Editors can be expensive after all.


    1. What you might lack in quality, you make up for in quantity 🙂 Kidding.

      I do still get worked up when I probably should just walk away, but this one was one of those times when it was crystal clear there was no way I’d come out winning.


  3. I had a professor who claimed Wuthering Heights was Bronte’s attempt to rewrite Paradise Lost and that Heathcliff was the devil. I disagreed and tried to defend my position without success. Know the feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Heathcliff is not a sympathetic character but he was a product of the prejudice of the times. It would be hard to make that claim about the devil in Paradise Lost. But my prof had a PhD and fancied himself a literary critic ahead of his times….

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh brother! What a weird situation to be in at such a young age. I think you were wise beyond your years to let the issue go. No need to be foolish about it! We all know what Willy Shakes really said. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was the technicality that cinched it for me – the task was to memorize the assigned text and I hadn’t. I couldn’t argue with that. It was one of those few times the darn logical side of the brain didn’t help me out.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another great example of education v teaching. Poor you, how galling. I put a teacher right once; boy, did he hate me for it. I could see in his eyes he knew I was correct but the loss of face must have seemed huge and, of course, once he’d dug himself in he wasn’t letting go. Grim! Lovely post Allie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand. It can be really hard to admit that you are wrong, especially if you were supposed to be the expert. Luckily for me, I am an expert at making mistakes, so it has gotten much easier with practice.

      I don’t want to make him out as a bad teacher because he wasn’t. He really was passionate about his profession and you could tell he wanted desperately to connect with his students in the mode of Dead Poet’s Society – he just didn’t happen to do so with this particular student or this particular assignment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful post. What you didn’t do probably humbled him more. I think I would have been guilty of reciting it aloud though but maybe not too loud. I was always afraid to speak up in class, but to mumble I might have done that. Great post!!


    1. Thank you! The girls that spoke aloud were all in the popular crowd, which I was not a member of, so I would have been even less inclined to join in had the thought occurred to me.

      Regarding my teacher, looking back on this as an adult, I realize you are likely right. Hopefully he also learned a lesson then from the experience and applied it to the classes that followed.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent post, Allie. I actually think your teacher was a bit of a jerk, but I understand your point about picking battles. Yes, this is a time to proceed with care, perhaps to step back and see what happens versus digging in based on what “might” happen. It’s also a time to live our values and not give in to complacency or complicity. I have my fingers crossed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The movie version you watched probably did not star Leo DiCaprio, I’m guessing. Or everybody would’ve burst into song.

    I probably would have fought for a grade adjustment myself, but you are absolutely right in your desire to choose your battles carefully. It’s just a shame he wasn’t more willing to concede you the extra points. Censorship sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t recall what version it was now, but that would be a safe bet. Considering the full text was deemed too risky for my classroom’s eyes, that version with its rock beats and blatant drug would likely have been a no as well.


  9. Sorry–do you care to share what act/scene/lines were censored? I’m just curious–was it just a Readers Digest version or have there been objections to the play? Right now we have a mini controversy going on in my area regarding a high school production of Ragtime


  10. So I remember this lesson too – only for me, I was a bit older, and it was because of maps. We’re lied to, nothing is where they say it is, and all of a sudden my whole freaking world was torn apart. Because if the maps are wrong, what else is wrong. Is it the peters map? I forget. I must look it up again.


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