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I call it correction fatigue.

Correction fatigue strikes when you are in the middle of grading students’ papers and you come to a paper that is filled with errors. The grammar and style are so bad that the intended meanings of the sentences are lost.

A numbness sets in as I stare at the confused mess in front of me, literally not knowing where to start. Missing words, factual errors, shoddy punctuation, and confused argumentation cry out for correction all at once. Where do I even begin? The errors are so basic and fundamental that it feels like I have to return to the “A, B, C’s” to help the student understand where things went wrong.

There is a moment when I want to procrastinate. Sometimes, if I have been working for a while, I do. Better to face this challenge fresh rather than tackle it while I am tired. But sooner or later, I plunge into the task at hand. I do it because this student has potential like any other student. Comments that may or may not be read are written in hopes that the student will benefit in their next assignment.

I do it because it’s who I am and why I’m here. My energy stems from the conviction that each of us can grow stronger than we were the day before and that such growth is a form of worship we render to God. Correction fatigue gives way to hope even when it feels like I am boxing shadows. If I have to go back to the ground floor to lead people to higher levels, it’s worth the descent if just one or two start up the stairs.

Fact & Fiction, Sense & Nonsense

I experience something similar to correction fatigue when I turn on the news, check social media or just listen to conversations throughout the day. I saw a post yesterday on my Facebook feed from a college friend who was asking if anyone knew of a “good” geocentric science curriculum. Yes, you read that correctly. The man was asking for a geocentric science curriculum in the twenty-first century.

The line between fact and fiction, sense and nonsense, seems blurred more and more every day. Postmodernity offers an important reality check to modern pretensions to solve all problems through rationalism at its best. Knowing that there are limits to what humans can know through the exercise of the five senses and the rational mind flows as an enriching gift from postmodern thought exercised well. Unfortunately, attempts to push postmodern thought to its most radical and ridiculous extremes has put us in a place where the very fabric or reality seems up for debate.

Questions that the rational mind can resolve are cast back into the sea of irresolution by a public that refuses to accept rational evidence. The evidence of our five senses slams up against a wall of denial erected by propagandists who want to convince us that up is down, natural laws are a matter of opinion, and two plus two equals five only if that right network or political party endorses that answer.

Doubling Down on Sanity & Integrity

All of this silliness drives me dangerously close to correction fatigue on a pretty regular basis. I am really not a corrector by nature and would prefer to live and let live. But that is exactly what the dysfunctional elements in our cultures are counting on. These people operate like the eccentric Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon gets his way by simply wearing his friends down. Even when his arguments are shoddy and his expectations are unrealistic, Sheldon wins because he has enough sheer grit and selfish determination to outlast everyone else.

This cultural moment demands people of sanity and integrity to double down and refuse to let the brutish bombastic behavior of the bullies who lead the new anti-intellectual and anti-reality offensive exhaust us. Someone who jumps off a building can voice their belief that they can fly at the top of their lungs all the way down. Gravity will still catch up with them. Without some artificial means of propulsion, they will meet mother earth and demonstrate once again why Alexander Pope was so enthralled with the achievements of Sir Isaac Newton. In the end, reality wins.

Those of us who love the life of the mind and believe that there is such a thing as actual facts live at a moment when what we have to offer has never been less appreciated or more needed. We must leave our comfort zones and engage in conversations that will both challenge and exhaust us. The lost arts of intelligent debate, careful analysis, and sober conversation modeled by devoted advocates can outlast the childish noise of boorish bullies. For that to happen, people need to see us teaching, writing, helping, encouraging, and engaging in ways that go beyond mere prescribing of idealistic solutions.

The future belongs to the persistent. It belongs to those who build, not those who tear down. Despite all evidence to the contrary, it belongs to the wise and the humane. May the content of this blog and the energies of my life be devoted to promoting those characteristics. May you, faithful reader and responsible realist, catch this vision and spread it far and wide. In the end, humanity rises from the ashes. Reality wins. Love trumps hatred and ignorance.

Scott Culpepper

Scott Culpepper teaches history at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.

11 Comments

  • Rick DeVries says:

    Bless you! You are making a difference each day.

  • June A. Huissen says:

    Thank you. I needed to read this. Hopefully I will be able to do what you so passionately ask of us in your great article.

  • M Scott says:

    Thanks for this post. I love this sentence: My energy stems from the conviction that each of us can grow stronger than we were the day before and that such growth is a form of worship we render to God.

  • Marty Wondaal says:

    This is a very encouraging post. I have a bit of a case of correction fatigue – see the post from two days ago. It is funny how people will stick with preposterous claims to avoid admitting their fallibility. It’s not just college students; professors and pastors, in my experience, can be particularly intransigent in their dogmas. But then again, I suppose, it’s the same with delivery truck drivers. I will continue to gracefully admonish as appropriate, and be open to correction myself.

    • Marty Wondaal says:

      Well done.

    • Tom Ackerman says:

      I read your reply two days ago. I did not see it as “correction” but rather as opinion. It is a verifiable fact that the earth revolves around the sun. it is a verifiable fact that the earth is far older than 6000 yrs (unless you want to argue that God created the world 6000 years ago to appear to be much older). It is a verifiable fact that there were more people at President Obama’s inauguration than at President Trump’s inauguration. It is a verifiable fact that President Trump lost the popular vote in the last election by nearly 300,000 votes. It is a verifiable fact that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will warm earth’s climate. These are facts.

      Your comments two days ago represent your opinions, which you are entitled to, but they are not facts simply because you hold them as opinion. This is precisely the problem that we face. We fail to have rational discussions because we cannot agree on the facts.

      • Marty Wondaal says:

        Thank you for your explanation of what a fact is. Your examples of facts help me form an opinion of what you would be like at a dinner party.

        But, my post was strictly referring to my assertion (of fact?) that the “rape culture” statistics given by the Calvin College SAPT are not accurate. To date, no one has responded to me. Perhaps, as a scientist, you could review that particular topic and give me your opinion.

  • David Pettit says:

    I appreciate and relate to this piece very much. Thank you.
    One additional comment: I find your remarks about the post-modern correction to be true. And when you speak of the lines being blurred between fact and fiction, sense and non-sense, I couldn’t agree more. But you give the impression that the recent turn to shaping facts to what you want them to be is a post-modern trajectory. Ironically, I see this coming from the modernist generation, reclaiming position, voice, and authority by all means necessary. This is the strange and unsettling surprise – these truth defenders seem to have little interest in it. My perspective may be skewed, and there is much to unpack, but among the things to unpack are the syncretistic patterns of how christianity and political stance became so intwined, of how christianity and patriarchy, christianity and race, and so forth. And that in the reclaiming of these things against cultural change, truth is the one thing folks are willing to eschew in order to gain something else.
    For what it is worth.
    Thank you again for this piece.

    • Scott Culpepper says:

      Thanks for the insightful comment, David. I agree with your assessment that it is the formerly Christian modernist crowd with an attachment to Scottish realist philosophy that is pushing a lot of the current promotion of an unhealthy postmodernity. I want to write a longer piece at some point with supporting notes about how conservatives have embraced the post-modern playbook and begun to traffic in patterns of thought they once condemned. I served at a school that took a turn towards fundamentalism and can remember saying several times that those fundamentalist Christians said some of the most postmodern things I had ever heard to support their positions. Even thought their positions were decidedly not postmodern. It’s the same dynamic as how some political conservatives have embraced the notion that there is no such thing as objective news in order to label any news they don’t like as fake news. Thanks again for reading and taking the time to respond.

  • Daniel J Meeter says:

    How do you fly at the top of your lungs? Placement.

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