Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ignorance & Intelligence

The other day I skimmed an article by Alex Jones about how we (as a society) are so busy paying attention to celebrity culture that we are blind to truly important issues.

I want you to notice a couple of things about what I just said: 1 - I skimmed the article (because I was too busy trying to read a gossip rag on another site), and 2 - "by Alex Jones." I am just becoming familiar with the site InfoWars, so I don't know much about Mr. Jones. So far, he has some interesting viewpoints. Later, I am going to really check out what else he has to say. (I'm more careful now because I used to think that Matt Drudge was impartial, but, uh, NO! lol)

Anyway, whatever else Mr. Jones may have to say, he spoke a real truth about our priorities. It's as if we have forgotten that there was a time when women and minorities had to fight (and sometimes die) for knowledge and education. I believe that the celebrity media long ago figured out that people will be greedy for anything that is withheld. Celebrities have figured it out too. This is why the stage photo ops and leak info about themselves. Look how we pant after the latest "news" on current celebrities. Paparazzi and celebrity bloggers work hard to dig out hidden nuggets of information about these people & we just lap it all up. Libraries are open all week long in most places, but I don't think people are flocking there to refresh their minds on any important issues.
Am I pointing fingers at everyone else? Not without standing in the mirror first.

I am ashamed to say that I am almost totally ignorant of things going on right now in politics and business. I can't name more than a few senators or congressmen. I can't tell you right now what is going on with the handling of our military forces. I don't know what kind of legislation has been going on on The Hill (not the show, but at the Capitol). I can, however, name almost every housewife on the Real Housewives franchise. I can tell you things that would not benefit the actual quality of your life in any way, shape or form.

I am ashamed!

Most people (it's not just me, folks!) are not fully conversational in current events (outside the celebrity world), history, culture, religion (other than their own), literature (not the Zane Chronicles), etc. 

Wasn't there a movie once about an ignorant person being the only survivor of some type of global catastrophe? I remember something about him waking up in the future where everyone was dumber than he was & looking to him to enlighten them. Can you imagine if that happened to the average American today? What would they be able to tell anyone? Would they be able to reconstruct any of our history? I don't know how much use I would be? How about you?

Anyway, the more I thought of the huge gaping holes in my own education, the worse I felt. Age is not an excuse. Doesn't matter that I am closing in on 50 years. Doesn't matter if you are just 5 years out of high school. Money isn't an excuse. While not everyone can attend college, there are a lot of free resources for anyone within reach of a computer or library.

I did a little research on "autodidacticism," which is self-education. Interesting and irresistible.

In case you are also interested in improving yourself by this method, I found some starter resources. I will be listing a more complete list on my Tracks blog, but in the meantime, check out these:
  • Self-Made Scholar - has a list of classes. Have not checked these out myself 
  • Self-Made Scholar - detailed list of resources (including open courseware from places such as Yale and MIT
  • About.Com - under "explore topics," look up Grammar & Composition, Mathematics or whatever other subject you're interested in (including languages)
  • Wikiversity - create an account to access a bunch of resources
  • A How-To -  of pursuing self-learning (this is in PDF)
  • Fathom - a resource presented by Columbia University
  • HowStuffWorks - tells you, well - how stuff works. Love this site
In addition to that, do your own searches. I used search terms such as, "self education," "learning how to _____," etc.

If you have a smart phone that allows you to download applications, you can search for all sorts of useful tools. On the Motorola Backflip (droid software), I checked out the marketplace and found (free) apps for learning Japanese, studying and practicing state capitals, improving memory. I even found an app called the MBA test bundle (shrug)...

The point is, you (and I) don't have to be ignorant unless we just want to be. Your parents probably already told you this, but there is a difference between ignorant and dumb. (another great resource) defines the terms:

  • Ignorant  –adjective
    1. lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned: an ignorant man.
    2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact: ignorant of quantum physics.
    3. uninformed; unaware.
    4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training: an ignorant statement.
  • Dumb –adjective
    1. lacking intelligence or good judgment; stupid; dull-witted.
So, an intelligent person can be ignorant in some areas, and ignorant can be fixed. Dumb people, in my opinion, are those (even thinking themselves intelligent) who don't want to be "fixed."

Anyway, that's my little rant for today.