Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ignorance

“We live, we are told, in a ‘knowledge society’ during the ‘Information Age.’ Indeed, we carry small devices that give us access to an enormous portion of human knowledge and allow us to share information, virtually instantaneously, with people around the globe. But our era has also been called the ‘Age of Ignorance.’ Thoughtful observers decry the contemporary ‘culture of ignorance’—especially, but not solely, in the United States. The contradiction is troubling and puzzling. Ignorance, it seems, is trending.
The sort of ignorance sparking concern is what might be termed public ignorance, by which I mean widespread, reprehensible ignorance of matters that are significant for our lives together. Functional illiteracy and innumeracy are examples. Such ignorance might once be explained, if not excused, by lack of educational opportunity; but that seems obtuse when applied to countries with rich educational resources. Besides, the rate of functional illiteracy may be higher in today’s America than it was in colonial New England. Stubbornly high rates of illiteracy and innumeracy are a public shame, no doubt. This is remediable ignorance. The need is for learning—except that many such forms of ignorance thrive despite years of schooling.”— Daniel R. DeNicola, Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know (MIT Press, 2017).

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