The Final Countdown – Part 1

It’s hard to ignore the déjà vu. Five years ago, I was practically in the same place I am now. I was in the PLP program’s main room, giving my full attention to the class as it was one of my only commitments. Now I’m back as a senior student without any other classes and feeling both happy to be back and sad to soon be leaving. This is why I’m calling this series of weekly reflections the final countdown as these months in PLP will be my last. It has been an incredible journey and I am so thankful to have been a part of this program.

In typical PLP fashion, our teachers have outdone themselves by bringing us not only fascinating new content but also a new system to deepen our learning. It is known as Zettelkasten and is an ingenious form of note-taking that effortlessly creates connections for later use. Through exploring this system and a number of historically significant events including the Cuban Missile Crisis, birth control and the Vietnam War, one of the connections that has popped up is how keeping an open mind is almost always beneficial throughout history. The power of an open perspective can help in everything from school to world-wide conflicts, and in this post I will discuss how.

Staying Open-Minded About Societal Convention

The adoption of oral contraceptives into the way our society functions occurred quickly after their invention, but could things have moved even quicker? If individuals opened their minds to the possibility of gender roles changing and woman gaining autonomy sooner, the pill could have been legalized immediately and a women could have purchased it without their partner’s knowledge. Before the 1950s, 1 out of every 100 students in law school was a woman, but after the 1960s (when the pill took hold of society) the gender balance became 50/50. This implies that the pill was getting more women in school and eventually into the workforce. If people kept an open mind and oral contraceptives were adopted immediately, the economic power of woman could have been tapped a lot sooner and benefitted society to a greater extent.

Staying Open-Minded in Politics

The New Deal, an economic and workplace reform program created by Franklin D. Roosevelt which helped bring America out of the Great Depression, is proof that government intervention in the lives of people can be quite beneficial, yet many are still opposed to the concept. Recent government reform programs such as free healthcare and stronger gun control laws have seldom made it into law due to a rhetoric about losing freedom and autonomy. The two perspectives, those who do believe in intervention and those who do not, clash constantly on the political stage and in their daily lives which has only made the real problem worse; the ever-growing amount of polarization in the country. Although it is just an assumption that modern reform programs would have the same positive effect as the New Deal, it would greatly benefit those opposed to open their mind to this possibility. It would also be greatly beneficial for those jumping on every reform program to keep an open mind that some may indeed create harm, allowing both sides to find a common ground and lessen the polarization.

Staying Open-Minded in War

Even in the earliest days of the conflict, it was obvious the Vietnam War could not be won. The general public may have jumped on board with excitement in these days but increasing numbers of military officials had their concerns. In the later days, the understanding of this defeat was so prominent that South Vietnamese generals were downright telling America they would lose unless they were given better support. This fell on deaf ears however as president Lyndon B. Johnson maintained that their aggressive and brutal approach would bring victory. Whether he was personally determined to or politically bound to keep a closed mind on his perspective is unknown, but opening to the possibility of failure early in the war could have saved millions. This war could have been remembered as a positive turning point that showed America as a moral nation instead of one that exposed incompetence within their military.

It was not just LBJ who would have benefitted from being open-minded though. Some sources claim that in his mind he truly had no alternative if he wanted to move America forward and was acting accordingly. If the American public kept an open perspective to this motive and he was open to their thoughts, a lot of strife and violence, such as the four university students being shot at Kent State University, could have been avoided.

Staying Open-Minded in My Life

I can say that one of my biggest problems throughout my time in PLP has been keeping an open mind. I tend to get project ideas in my head early on and find it hard to pivot later, so for this unit I decided I would actively have to keep an open perspective. I initially wanted to use the app Keynote for my Zettelkasten but decided to listen to my teachers’ suggestions and go with the app Craft. I really enjoyed using it, especially the linking capabilities and the ability to categorize notes. However, I found it limited as I couldn’t visualize the big picture my links were creating, could not create text within links to explain them and could not separate tags and links. With this in mind I decided to develop my own system in Numbers:

By staying open-minded with Craft, I got to discover some excellent app mechanics like the linking and integrate them into my own system. I am also glad that I was open-minded to Zettelkasten as I am enjoying learning about the system and my notes have significantly improved from our Shrew You! unit in depth, connection and usefulness. By recording all of my sources, I have also been forced to examine them for reliability, relevance and trustworthiness. For example, I decided to not make a literature note on one source that was quite politically opinionated as after considering it for a second time I realized the bias was too prominent.

Being open-minded isn’t the end all be all though. I have found my system lacks some of the benefits of Craft, such as the linking capabilities, and will likley revise it again in the future.

In fact, I did some research and found an interesting counterclaim that having too much of an open mind can be harmful. According to the source below, being too open to the world forces you to be exposed to harmful things such as racism and can be used as “a cover for mental laziness” (Epstein, 2000) for people who don’t want to defend their own ideas. I disagree with this as I believe being open-minded is simply considering new beliefs and ideas and not necessarily agreeing with them, but it is an interesting point of view to consider.

Epstein, Alex. “Why You Shouldn’t Keep an ‘Open Mind’ by Alex Epstein | Capitalism Magazine.” Capitalism Magazine, 2 Nov. 2000,

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