"In their book Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, three professors devoted an entire chapter to what they call “illusions of knowing” (Brown, Roediger III, & McDaniel, 2014). Steve picked up this text, and this chapter in particular, because he was preparing to teach the play Oedipus to a group of 9th graders. He wanted to skip the usual fare — plot, character development, poetic structure — and dig into the ways in which the main character’s ego and bias blinded him to what he clearly should have seen. Increasingly, for Steve, this seems to be a lesson worth teaching and learning.
Oedipus, the main character, begins by setting out to find a murderer and bring him to justice. Oedipus is known as a person who invests his considerable resources and competencies, first and foremost, in being a good citizen of Thebes. He wants to serve the people of Thebes and be known as a first-rate fixer. This behavior is important to the story others tell about him, and perhaps more critically, to the story he tells himself about himself.
The main problem is that Oedipus, himself, is the murderer he seeks. So it’s a mystery story wherein the detective is seeking himself. However, it is also a story about human psychology, because Oedipus can’t find himself (back in roughly 430 b.c.) for the same reasons that some professors must still write a book for teachers (back in roughly 2014) that exhorts them to help students avoid illusions of knowing.
Each of us is an astounding bundle of perceptual and cognitive abilities, coexisting with the seeds of our own undoing. When it comes to learning, what we choose to do is guided by our judgments of what works and what doesn’t, and we are easily misled. (Brown, Roediger III, & McDaniel, 2014, p. 123)
The very mind that helps Oedipus, and any human being, to thrive also causes him, and us, to stumble, often making thriving a mere afterthought.
As Steve was grasping the combined insight of a Greek poet and modern day learning specialists, he was in the process of making the largest purchase in his life, a new home. And as he went through the buying process, he realized that he wasn't searching for money, because, with his wife, he had saved what he needed to reach his goal. And he wasn't searching for time, because he was a school administrator heading into the summer. He was searching for something else."