It May Just be a Case of Collective Illusions

Here’s a theory I’ve come to accept as truth. Human beings often act against their own best interests, because they misunderstand what the majority of the people around them actually believe. These misunderstandings are called collective illusions, and they can explain, among other things, why it feels like the country is divided on every single topic. But are we really?

Collective illusions are driven by a conformity bias that leads us to assume there’s a consensus where there is none. This is why we hoard toilet paper, discriminate on the basis of race, participate in cancel culture, allow men to compete against women in sporting events, and push our kids to pursue a four-year degree regardless of the cost, without even considering the many advantages of trade school. Most people, as it turns out, do NOT really support any of those things, but we hesitate to condemn them, because the illusion of a consensus feels very, very real.

That theory is at heart of a book called Collective Illusions, by Todd Rose, which I encourage you to read with all due speed. I was intrigued with every page, but drawn especially to the enduring belief held by so many that a four-year degree is “the best path for the most people.” According to the latest research, this is NOT something that most people actually believe – it’s just another collective illusion. A very powerful collective illusion that’s led our country straight into a monstrous skills gap, a nightmare of student debt, and a generation of young people with a very expensive diploma but no useful skill.

Happily, as Todd Rose explains to me here, that illusion is beginning to collapse, and when it does, great things will happen to our educational system. Give it a look, please, and share it far and wide.

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