Friday, January 21, 2011

My invalid assumptions

Don’t assume, instructors tell students.

That’s a good rule for this instructor, too. Every day some of my assumptions turn out to be invalid.

Recently, for example, I had a conversation with a university-educated person about a piece of writing that mentioned the name Hansard.

She complained that the item did not give Hansard’s first name.

Not a problem, I thought. Because my ill-spent youth included a few years as a political journalist, I was familiar with Hansard.

It’s the official record of debates in the parliaments and legislatures of countries with a British parliamentary tradition such as Canada.

I assumed that, because I am familiar with Hansard, many other people are. Wrong, and unfair, too.

My conversational partner is a fine person who knows a lot more about many topics than I do. She just hasn’t spent much time reading Hansard.

And I shouldn’t have assumed that she had.