In one of my little epiphanies, while pondering the fact that our society increasingly is a veritable Titanic, sinking in the frigid sea of stupidity, it struck me that the amazing ignorance of the simplest of facts…like where China is on a map of the world…made me realize that stupidity is simply ignorance ignored. An old saying came to mind: “He who knows not, and knows not he knows not, he is stupid: shun him. He who knows not and knows he knows not, he is ignorant: teach him. But he who knows and knows he knows, he is wise: follow him.”
There are outstanding exceptions to the stupidity factor, of course, but it does seem that the ratio of stupidity to ignorance seems to be growing steadily in favor of stupidity. We all are ignorant of so very many things, and there seems to be more and more out there that we really should know just to keep up with the world. But this is, again ignorance, and can be overcome if we have the desire to expend the time and effort to do so. The problem is that so few people do think it’s worth it.
There was an ad running on TV some time ago about a young woman who is grateful to some company or other because people there help her father read his mail “because he never learned how.” This is, on the surface, touching. However, I fear my reaction is always: “For God sakes, man, if you can’t read, learn!” There was no indication that he might be dyslexic--learning to read can be difficult for dyslexics, but not impossible--and no sign of mental impairment
to keep this man from learning, but instead he willingly suffered the embarrassment of having to depend on others for something there was no reason he could not do for himself.
Having thus said, I just remembered that when I first moved to L.A., I met a nice young guy whom I started seeing. One time we were going somewhere and got lost. I pulled up to a phone booth and asked him to go look up the address. He went into the booth and came out five minutes later saying he couldn’t find it. There were a couple other similar incidents until I realized that he could not read! I was shocked. The poor kid was excruciatingly embarrassed by his inability, but he said he didn’t want to learn now because he was too ashamed. Dear Lord!
Ignorance is correctable. Stupidity is not. Our educational system (“Children is our future,” as our beloved former president George W. Bush once said) is in serious trouble. Good, devoted teachers are required to concentrate on those facts which will enable their students to pass tests rather than teaching to impart knowledge. Teacher layoffs, budget cuts, and the insistence of too many school boards to pass failing students just to move them through the system, forces us lower and lower in comparison with other nations (we're 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math). And it is a frighteningly slippery slope. Parents who were not themselves properly educated and have no interest in learning tend to produce children--“Be fruitful and multiply” seems to be one of the few biblical instructions to which most people pay any real attention--who are, if possible, even more stupid than their parents.
Ignorance is frustrating. Stupidity is frightening. There is precious little we, as individuals, can do to singlehandedly halt the relentless advance of stupidity, but there is one thing any one of us can do: read, and do whatever we can to encourage others to do the same. If there are children in your life, read to them. For a child, one of the most effective tools in combating ignorance is a library card. But it is equally important for adults, and each of us can help keep ignorance from morphing into stupidity by the simple act of giving books for every occasion calling for a gift. When you finish a book, do everything you can to pass it on to someone, or donate it to a library, a hospital, a nursing home, anywhere there is a chance someone else may share your pleasure.
Of course, as a writer, I have a vested interest in people reading. But whether you read my books or not, please read. When you hold a book, the future is, indeed, in your hands.
Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1 ).