Stupid or Ignorant?

Remember the t-shirts that were popular for awhile? They had printed on the front the words “I’m With Stupid” and had an arrow pointing to the person next to you. Funny shirt.

There is a difference between being “stupid” and being “ignorant”.

To be stupid, according to Merriam-Webster:

aslow of mind 
bgiven to unintelligent decisions or acts acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
clacking intelligence or reason 

Now, to be ignorant is something

a: destitute of knowledge or education
also:lacking knowledge or comprehension of the thing specified
bresulting from or showing lack of knowledge or intelligence
An important distinction.
Stupid is probably something you cannot control. I have had a few students who were
truly stupid. Yes, I know teachers aren’t supposed to say that, but it is true. Anyone who has ever sat in a classroom as student or teacher knows what I am talking about. The kid just doesn’t get it.
So, someone who is stupid is “slow of mind”. Not mentally retarded, just a bit slow. Clueless. Doesn’t get it. You tell them a joke with any degree of sophistication and it goes over their head. When they read the “Onion ” they think they are reading the “New York Times”.
Ignorant is something else, however. Everyone is ignorant. All of us. Even me. (Hard to believe).
Being ignorant simply means you don’t have knowledge in a certain area.  It means you have little “knowledge” and lack understanding in some area.
I used to have this little argument with my seniors in government class. Some students insisted (as does Kelly Ann Conway) that every opinion is just as valid as any other opinion. In other words, all opinions are equal. The denial of expertise. So, alternate facts are just as valid as real facts. And there are a number of people who hold to this flawed concept.
My response to the kids was simply this. If you are pains in your abdomen, whose opinion are you going to consider? I , as a person with no training as a doctor tell you not to worry, those are just pains that only exist in your imagination. Do you accept my opinion? Or, do you seek the opinion of a doctor? Are those opinions equal in value?
Let me give another example. Ben Carson. Ben Carson is an excellent surgeon. If you wanted surgery, he is the guy whose opinion you would want. Intelligent. But, Ben Carson is also ignorant. Ben Carson claimed that the Great Pyramid of Gaza was used as a grain storage facility for the ancient Egyptians. He claimed that a solid stone monolith was a for grain storage.
How can a man who is intelligent is one area be so utterly ignorant in another? Well, my guess is that he read something to that effect and just believed it. So, he had one source of information and did not bother to read other sources, from experts in Egyptology. Ignorant, but not necessarily stupid.
Now, if Ben Carson wanted to stop being ignorant about the Great Pyramid his problem could be easily solved. He could consult a basic textbook on Egypt, written by someone who actually was an expert. If he did so, and he wasn’t stupid, he would change his opinion about the function of the Great Pyramid. Of course, in order to do so he would have to be open to his own ignorance on that particular topic.
When we think of those with different views from us we need to consider the differences between ignorant and stupid. Not that many people are stupid. After all, as a species being stupid is not an evolutionary advantage. No amount of information can help a person who is truly stupid.
An ignorant person, on the other hand, can become less ignorant. Anyone with a normal degree of intelligence can learn about the pyramids. Provided they rely on sources of knowledge form experts. From people who have opinions based on study and evidence.
Therein lies the problem. When ignorant people CHOOSE to stay ignorant.
I recall a student I had a numbers of years ago who failed his tests regularly. He blamed me. Why? Because I didn’t teach him anything. I couldn’t dispute that. After all, his test failure spoke for itself. Of course, I never taught any student anything. I simply provided the opportunity for them to learn. they had to be open to learning.
We all have a choice. Stay ignorant or open up to evidence and information Choose to tune out evidence that interferes with our preconceived notions or accept evidence and digest it. And lessen our ignorance.
Perhaps we need a new t-shirt. When we stand next to  those of us who refuse to seek facts and data and evidence that challenge our world view. A t-shirt that says: I’m With Ignorant.


Filed under Politics

2 responses to “Stupid or Ignorant?

  1. whungerford

    My spouse taught Sociology. A student submitted a paper that included the phrase: “as a Supreme Court Justice I …” Was that stupid or ignorant?

    I once took a math class on “Numerical Methods.” Two students argued with the teacher. “We just want to program computers,” they said. “Why must we study math?” Was that stupid or ignorant?


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