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Section 1 Foundations of Doctoral Study / Chapter 1 Welcome to the Doctoral Journey

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The Elephant and the Blind Men


 The fable of the Elephant and the Blind Men works as a representation of how learners in the doctoral program can view the same event with different perspectives:


Once upon a time, six blind men lived in a village. One day, several villagers told them that someone had brought an elephant to the village square.


None of the blind men had any idea what an elephant was, and even though they would not be able to see it, they would be able to feel what an elephant is like, so they decided to go. When the men arrived at the village square, they all touched the elephant.


The first man touched the elephant's leg and said, "This elephant is a like pillar."

"Surely not! It is like a rope," said the man who had touched the tail.


"You are both wrong. An elephant is more like a thick tree branch," said the third man as he touched the trunk of the elephant.


One man, who touched the elephant's ear, said, "It feels like a fan."


The fifth man touched the elephant's side and exclaimed, "It is more like a huge wall!"


Touching the elephant's tusk, the sixth man said, "It is very much like a solid pipe."


The men began to squabble over who most accurately described what the elephant was like. They were becoming agitated with each other, when a wise man passed by and overheard their disagreement. The man stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?"


"We cannot agree to what the elephant is like," one of the men replied.

After each man provided their description of the elephant, the wise man explained that all of their depictions were accurate. "You each touched a different part of the elephant, each of which is as you described: a pillar, a rope, a branch, a fan, a wall, and a pipe."