Part Two: “Default to Truth” – Did you find it ironic that in all the examples provided by Gladwell in this section, the default to truth was actually people defaulting to a FALSE truth? They were reading the situations wrong – rather than defaulting to truth. I would argue that they were defaulting to good. The examples proved that most people were defaulting to the good they saw in another person, rather than the sinister realities of the situations.
I was teaching on-campus at Penn State when the Sandusky abuse was revealed and he was charged. My students were undergraduates (mostly Freshman and Sophomores) in a 100-level required communication general education course.
Many Penn State students begin their attendance in undergrad with a pre-established die-hard allegiance to the school; raised by families who are huge Penn State football fans and have spent their entire lives knowing the head coach, Joe Paterno (often referred to as JoePa), who served this role for 45 years.
When the scandal was revealed, it was palpable that everyone was disgusted and horrified by the abuse of children on campus. In fact, students at Penn State pride themselves in supporting children; the school boasts the largest student-run philanthropy in the world THON (short for dance marathon), which raises millions of dollars each year to advance treatment and support for childhood cancer.
What revealed itself as an example of Gladwell’s “Default to Truth” premise was the student response to Joe Paterno hearing of the allegations years before and his being fired for a lack of response. Students were devastated by the news that he would no longer be part of Penn State. At first, I was confused because, clearly, he did something wrong and needed to face the repercussions. Then I took a step back and realized that the students were grappling with their impression of Joe Paterno as a grandfather figure and their inherent belief that he was good. It was this discrepancy that many people likely saw on the news when students flooded the campus town streets and caused damage to property. Ultimately, they defaulted to good and were having a hard time coming to terms with the updated reality.
What were your thoughts on this section? Any examples from your life where you saw these principles emerge?