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Brian Ross

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief , TheRossGroupFT LLC

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Ignorance Plagues Progress: Finding New Avenues to End It

Ignorance is the anchor that drags on progress. Technology's rapid advance in less than a handful of decades has created a social, religious and political backlash. Ignorance is not stupidity. Some of the most educated people in the world have been some of the most willfully ignorant. With 5 in 10 adult Americans barely able to read and write, and nearly 9 in 10 exhibiting varying degrees of difficulty in synthesizing information, 2 in 10 taking in any kind of non-entertainment news, how do those who propose to advance humanity "catch up" the vast majority of the planet to become broader, more rational thinkers?

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  • Jul 5 2012: It is not only ignorance that hinders progress. Arrogance also plays a part.

    I am not convinced that there is a vast majority of rational thinkers that the 'ignorant ones' have to catch up with.
    I believe the answer is in the educational system. A system that would produce a generation of learners who will be able to acquire knowledge from scholars and from interactions with other global citizens, without being restricted in their minds to only the things that has been learned. An open mind asks questions; but does not arrogate the monopoly of answers to itself.

    This form of education also rests on self-examination, critical thinking and the recognition of the intellectual/creative capacities of other people.
    By this I mean that a Bishop, a physicist, a journalist, or a poet should not try to explain the complex ideas and theories outside their field.
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      Jul 17 2012: Our systems of learning only channel a select few into schools and programs where we teach people to challenge assumptions and rethink the world. The vast majority of those educated learn by rote, are trained to fill lower-level task specific jobs, and are given very few tools to think for themselves outside of narrow parameters.
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        Jul 17 2012: Do you have empirical support for the claims that most people are educated by rote, that they are not taught to challenge assumptions, that they are trained to fill lower-level tasks, and that they are given few tools to think for themselves?
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          Jul 19 2012: If you will allow observational over empirical...most people are mediocre; it is mathematically so. The bar itself for mediocre is falling - rapidly, at least here in America. They work their brains as little as possible, the least amount required by an education system which itself has a decreasing bar, and barely succeeding at that. Teaching is rote, learning is rote; it's more like flash-programming than learning. To challenge an assumption one would have to step outside the normal, approved process of shuffling along. There may be moments of vague doubt, but stepping out of line? That takes a particular kind of character, a personality type which is not exactly fostered. The mediocre, the masses, are thus mainly suitable for activities some future automaton may perform. Tools exist, but they are ill-equipped to recognize them, let alone harness them. The TV beckons, and it's back to American Idol; the unsettling, amorphous notions thankfully slip away.
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        Jul 19 2012: But is this actually true, V, or a widespread misconception drawn from unsystematic observation? Does this idea come from believing what various others assumed to be authoritative have argued perhaps without rigorous evidence?
        Looking to actual evidence (not just some supporting examples close at hand) can be a great way of thinking outside the box of "common wisdom."
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          Jul 21 2012: I'll meet you over half-way on the first part and suggest it as a personal (I could almost hazard widespread) perception drawn from unsystematic observation, perceived without rigor or the benefit of any citable expertise. That is, I got nothin'. :) I wonder if any true potential authority exists, or if that authority is not already satisfied with the way things are.

          I appreciate the gentle rebuke - supposed "common wisdom" is less useful than facts, possibly just an ambient sense of something, and shouldn't suffice for any analytical effort.
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        Jul 21 2012: V, people who keep themselves informed of what is going on right now in schools (curriculum and pedagogy) are not at all satisfied with the way things are. They tend to be at least as eager to solve the problems in service delivery as everyone else is and are working the hardest to improve things every day.
        There is an interesting assumption in popular culture that those who inquire deeply into or immerse themselves in a hands on way in an area have less awareness of the need for change than those who are on the sidelines.
        In my experience, this assumption is typically not true.

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