With 2009 drawing to a close and 2010 trudging up the path; I thought it would be a good time to review 5 things I have learned since 2000. Originally, when the idea for this article came to mind, I was going to be serious- investigate and divine some of the reasons why I did not know the things I have subsequently learned. I was going to dive deep and research the reasons and argue most prissily how, the ignorant American stereotype is nothing to be ashamed of; rather, something to be acknowledged and remedied.
However, upon reviewing some of the things I did not know, and later learned; I found them to be too funny, too “duh” to make them fit into a cohesive logical argument. So, what is a writer to do? Well, below you will find a list of nine things I did not know, the situation in which I was informed and perhaps, a pitiful plea that I really am not an Ignorant American, but rather someone who has had a rather odd education.
Now, in no particular order:
5 things I should have known, but didn’t; which I have subsequently learned about.
- Peter Gabriel was a member of Genesis. (2001, age 28: Category Music )
I had learned this astonishing fact while having a conversation with my then girlfriend. We had been discussing conversation progression, meaning; when a person brings up a topic there are certain counter or subtopics that seem to always come up. An example she gave was when talking about NASCAR, people invariably bring up either beer or motor oil. The three are related, granted; but, what we were talking about was when the topics seemed to have no relation at all. It was here, where I gave my example of unrelated topics: “yeah, it’s like, when ever I bring up Peter Gabriel, people always want to start talking about Genesis or Phil Collins. It was here, she ever so gently pointed out that Peter Gabriel had been a member of Genesis and was in fact replaced with Phil Collins.
- Alphaville (The band) are from Germany (2007, age 34: Category Music)
In this case, I was spared the embarrassment of being confronted with my ignorance in front of anyone. I had been listening to a local Frankfurt radio station; and they had had an interview with some of the members of Alphaville. The fact that all of the members spoke perfect German, clued me in on the fact that they were not British (as I had thought) but were a synth-new wave German band.
- Insects are part of the animal kingdom. (2003, age 29: Category Science)
As silly as it may seem, prior to a long road trip between London and Liverpool (we were going to a friends wedding) I thought “insects” were their own category and not part of the animal kingdom. Granted, my ego reasons this away with “it’s only a classification error, it’s not like you thought they belonged with the plants” But, regardless of what my ego wishes, it is still pretty bad.
- The roots of the English Language are Germanic. (2000, age 27: Category Science)
The ignorance of this fact is actually quite embarrassing, thankfully it occurred BEFORE I started teaching English. The discovery of my ignorance in this case was spread out over a few days. I had been having another one of those conversations with my girlfriend, where she made some off hand comment about English and German being related. I replied “no” that English was derived from Latin: I used several vocabulary examples, to state my case. She, not going to be deterred by my ignorance, came back a few days later with a book on linguistics; which clearly denoted the indo-European language tree. The proof was right there and I had to accept what I thought I knew, I did not. Incidentally, I blame the Normans for my ignorance; if they hadn’t been so successful in subjugating the English and their language, today we wouldn’t eat “Pork” and “Beef” and we wouldn’t raise “Swine” and “Cows. Additionally, it was this moment, that I became fascinated with linguistics and subsequently is one of the reasons why I became an English teacher.
- England and UK are not synonymous. (2002, age 28: Category Geography)
For the geographically impaired; which, being American automatically makes me a member, this mistake is a rather common one. (at least that is what my ego says) I was made aware of my errant labelling by a Scotsman in Essen, Germany. It seems, I kept referring to the whole bloody mess which is the UK as England, and he, being a Scotsman had to be sure to correct my political-geographical ignorance.
The previous 5 examples are but the tip of the proverbial iceberg (which, happens to be derived from Eisberg, a German word- retaining the same meaning) I could continue this list only to be constrained by time and mortality. However, I fear, rightfully, that it would turn towards the boring and tedious sooner than later. So, in conclusion, I would like to pose a finial question: Is ignorance a matter of not knowing something, which is deemed, commonly known? Or is ignorance something more akin to “I did not know that” and moving on- with no judgment entwined.?
It seems to me, in western culture in general, and Germany and the United States in particular, the very word ignorance maligns the character and causes others to hide its fact. Egotistical rationalizations abound, when someone’s ignorance is exposed. We all fear looking stupid. It is because of the fact that we all fear looking stupid, that we should: acknowledge it, work to remedy the lack of knowledge and move on. If we do not do this, then the ignorance goes unnoticed, unexposed, festering like a poorly tended to wound until systemically we are poisoned.
I am not advocating flaunting our ignorance, (as I have just done) rather, accepting it for what it is. Removing the stigma of not knowing something, which only servers to cause more problems, and to be upfront, and practical about it. I do -did not know this; will only benefit the world and society.
But, of course, what do I know, I am probably ignorant about human nature too.