My best friend knows so much about cars that he could reassemble an engine if the parts were in box.

One day several years ago, I stopped by his house, only to see the hatch on his 1988 Chevrolet Camaro on the ground with all of the assembly parts neatly organized nearby.

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“The hatch won’t close,” he replied. “I’ve looked at everything – even checked the fuses and the wiring to see if the problem is electrical, but I can’t find anything.”

A moment later, he happened to look down into the latch area of the car where it was failing and noticed something odd. He took out a long screwdriver, stuck it in the latch well and pried out a chunk of cardboard that had been preventing the hatch’s hook from catching and closing.

Echoing one of the last lines of a great bit by a famous comedian, and talking about himself, he said, “Look at my dumb kid.”

And when my late wife was being treated for her brain cancer three years ago, her oncologist recommended a different medication shortly after she’d finished her chemotherapy. I told him that not only did the med not show any efficacy (yes, I used that word) for brain cancer, it had an abnormally high reported side effect of gastrointestinal bleeding. He never again mentioned the drug.

Education is important, but it is not everything. I have great respect for people with advanced degrees, but even more respect for those MDs and PhDs who have not learned it all; who understand that there are people with far less knowledge who may have a viable solution to a specific challenge.

There are many bright, dedicated people working in the school district – decision-makers on whose expertise taxpayers rely for the most efficient and effective use of the resources we provide them. But they don’t know everything. Sometimes, their decision-making is not driven by rational thought or best practices, but by emotion. When that happens, progress is stifled and students, teachers, and taxpayers lose, all because someone’s ego prevented them from saying, “You’re right,” “Good idea,” or “Hmm… I never thought of that. Let me think about it.”

This message is directed to you (you know who you are). There is no shame in admitting a mistake or admitting that we don’t have all the answers. Those concepts, which we teach our children, apply throughout our lives.

Steve Smith

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