Lee Flockton

Teacher/ Educator, Birchville Primary School

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Is common sense an over rated concept or is it under rated?

I often hear both sides of this and wonder... I hear people say that it is over rated and it inhibits the opportunity to dream big. But then when looking to solve a problem there must be some hint of common sense used to be able to have initiative that is plausible to becoming a solution???
Or is it that we need to use less when brainstorming solutions but more when deciding which solution is best?

  • Apr 7 2011: Grossly under-used, I think. I have worked with people engaged extensively in computer simulated modeling. Everything they know was learned entirely from a theoretical perspective (from books etc) and they have no practical understanding of the concepts. Hence, when the models spit out preposterous results, they are blissfully unaware of the meaning. An analogy would be a model that creates a human that is 15 feet tall and weights 5 pounds. Of course, it is not entirely their fault - education is primarily about memorization and regurgitation so common sense not required.
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      Apr 7 2011: I completely agree, I often put it to my students that theory is meaningless and often useless with out there being practical application. The reason why I ask this question is that I have always thought common sense is an important ingredient in the thinking process but recently at a conference listened to a speaker (in the field of education) go on a rant about common sense being the 'pits' in a learning environment due to it limiting the ability to think big...
      I have always thought that common sense is something that should be encouraged and taught in schools through problem solving and if done well there would still be the chance for the dreaming big with out limits and then use common sense to select/apply the ideas.
      It really is something that is lacking in upcoming generations...
      • Apr 9 2011: Hi Lee, indeed critical thinking and common sense are lacking. With regards to the conference, I wonder if they confuse imagination with common sense. Imagination is what allows me to say "maybe some particles can travel faster than the speed of light" while common sense says "I cannot run faster than the speed of light". I have to say I am not a fan of the educational system and home schooled my son for several years. He is a thinker and I did not want him to lose that. Cheers :-)
  • Jun 22 2011: A misunderstanding of common indicators of ability and intention is central to the pattern of mistakes exhibited at both the individual level and at the level of society.

    Using one possible description of how concepts are evaluated (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elaboration_likelihood_model), using "common sense" could mean thinking about things superficially (which can cause an error), but it could also mean thinking about something critically but failing to do so at a level which correctly identifies flaws in an argument due to assumptions used in the analytical process. This would then create a false sense of confidence which might be perceived as others as a "lack of common sense" due to a greater familiarity with identifying hidden assumptions.

    In any case see this, just because: http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9 line 59.
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    Apr 17 2011: There's a few different ideas of what "common sense" means.

    One conception of it is that "common sense" is the understanding and usage of social and behavioral codes. You can see the structure of rules that supports your society and use them correctly in order to do what's expected in a situation. This type of common sense is very useful for operating successfully in the world, but doesn't lead to any real insight or improvement - you're just maintaining the functional system that's been built up over generations. Some of this type of common sense, like looking both ways before you cross the road, is already optimal - there's pretty much no situation where it would be more efficient to think about your options and then NOT look both ways before you cross - so this type of common sense is a great framework for reducing the clutter about what you need to be constantly thinking about and paying attention to.

    Another conception is that "common sense" is paying attention to the details of your behavior and altering what you do based on the context rather than sticking to an overarching idea of what you should do in any given situation. This form of common sense depends on the user taking in the relevant clues from their surroundings and their prior experience in whatever they're doing in order to perform their task in the most sensible and efficient way possible. This kind of common sense stems from constantly paying attention to what you are doing and what's going on in the world around you, and constantly evaluating your options and drawing larger conclusions from the data you take in.
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    Apr 7 2011: Common sense is to wisdom, as high IQ is to intelligence. Can't have one without the other.
    • Apr 8 2011: My brief membership in Mensa back in my misbegotten youth quickly taught me that, for many of its so-called super-intelligent members, IQ plus common sense often equals a constant.
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        Apr 8 2011: IQ is a measure where as common sense could be considered a tool or approach. What would you think to be larger issue or which one of these would have more problems in the current world: a person of high IQ and no common sense or a person of a high level of common sense but a rather low IQ?
  • Apr 7 2011: When I have an idea, I get together with friends (who think differently then myself) & we brainstorm the idea-that is using common sense to involve others. If need be: research- which may take a lot of effort but again common sense to do so. The best solution is "usually" the simplest one-again common sense.
    Common sense usually plays a huge role in any solution unless "greed" is the major driving force.