Know What You Don’t Know

The people who claim to know it all, know less than most

When I was a kid, I suppose I knew that I didn’t know everything. But then again, I was a kid. I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to do what my Mom & Dad did. I just didn’t care. I was too involved with myself at the time.

When I got into high school, I started to become aware that I knew things. I also started to find passion in certain areas more than others. I would come home and have this slight feeling that I knew more than my parents. I thought I knew higher levels of learning than my younger siblings just because of the fact that I was older.

When I got to college, classes were tough. But for classes that I excelled in, I felt I was really learning. I would come home with eloquent ideas from philosophy or whatever field that would flow off my tongue and into conversations that had nothing to do with my thoughts. The things that my parents did seemed a whole lot smaller. I felt like I knew something. I wasn’t quite aware of the things that I didn’t know. And, maybe I didn’t care about those things anyway. Biology to me was more important that English or Music or other sciences. So I had the opportunity to hold an elitist view of myself. I was on top of the world.

But when it came to getting  my Master’s degree, it wasn’t about biology. It was about a more specific field. I had to study something original that no other person in the world had done before. I started to pigeon hole myself into an expertise. I started to realize that my colleague, even though they were studying my specific field, knew a lot more than me about something else. I realized that there was a lot I didn’t know.

When I got my Ph.D., this became even more true. I might be a geneticist, but what kind of geneticist? I was a quantitative geneticist who studied disease resistance in field corn. I wouldn’t even pretend to have knowledge about anything else. If it were a similar disease in soybeans or rice, I would claim laissez faire. If you started talking about qualitative genetics of single genes in sweet corn, my eyes would blank over. I was pigeon holed to the nth degree. Sure, I don’t give myself credit to knowing other things. But I’m a lot more humble about it because I know what I don’t know.

The value of quality education is not in learning something deeply and then lording it over others. It is in appreciating the vast body of knowledge that exists. It is in knowing that you are not all knowing. It is looking at a complicated Mozart composition or the detailed Pointilism of Seurat and stand in wonder of the mind that can make such wonders. It is knowing the difference between a synonym and homonym; and knowing when to appropriately use your, you’re, their, there, they’re,….but not really caring if someone else screws it up. Its knowing you can go to your kid’s school teacher and see their written grammar is of a level to adequately educate your child. Its seeing a web site and that their writing gives them credibility enough that you’d pay money for their services. No, grammar and spelling aren’t that important in the scheme of life, but it gives credence to a modicum of knowledge that makes you appear worthy. Without a minimum education, it is difficult to make it in life.

I was listening to a rapper on a podcast who has multiple platinum albums and a lot of monetary worth. But his experiences of fighting in the streets and hard childhood, his form of pigeon English that is highly accented and dialected, and his travels abroad seeing notable world leaders and even infamous drug kingpins made his intellect intriguing. His street knowledge is just as credible as a Noble Laureate who lends understanding to some complex subject. They are complete equals in knowledge. But without bank statements or some credible resource to show your worth, it would be difficult to give a loan or hire you for a position if you are an (uneducated) rapper than the school educated person. Its just a fact of life. As for the rapper, yeah he is bringing his daughters up in ballet and the arts. He wants them to have what he didn’t have. That is, he wants them to feel love at home, safety, and a valuable education. He wouldn’t wish anyone to walk the hard path that he did.

Go to school kids. And grownups, its never too late to educate yourself. A good start is to read a book. Read books. Read many books of many subjects. Read the classics. And read a science textbook. Get online and follow the tangents down many roads. Learn about cultures and traditions. All the world is a stage for you to learn. Travel and experience things. Don’t sit in your bubble and expect osmosis to magically infuse you with knowledge. You have to engage yourself.

The smartest people in life are the humble who appreciates that someone knows more than you about many things

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