About Being Ignorant, and how that’s good.

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The word ignorant has a negative connotation to it. But upon reflection, I think the right dosage of ignorant could and might, in fact, be another important element for acquiring new knowledge and learning new things.

When I first went to the UK, there was only one word to describe myself. Ignorant. There is a difference between being stupid and being ignorant. Stupidity is the inability to understand something due to intelligence but ignorant is a lack of awareness about something.

For example, for the first time ever, I realised the importance of being fluent in English, that the other side of the world really use English to communicate, and what I have learnt in school was not adequate to get by. I also realised that teacher could actually care about your effort instead of simply the number of As you got; for once in my life, I was praised even though I only got a C. The first time to observe a student who raised a question, started a discussion in class with the teacher and hadn’t been told that she was slowing down progress; was even praised for contributing to everyone’s learning. My ignorance, or awareness of the differences in another culture has led me to realise that there really is more to the world, and I only know a little. My ignorance has led me to ask questions, become more sensitive to changes and my horizons expanded as a result.

This model of learning could be applied to many situations.

It would be impossible for many of us (although some really do) to constantly immerse ourselves in another culture, for the sake of learning more about others which in term inform about ourselves. But I would argue that we could still practice being ignorant in our daily lives. What if we assume that we are ignorant in the most familiar places. e.g. Do you really know what your spouse / employer / employee / customers need or what they think about certain things? You would be surprised by some of the answers you get, I’m sure.

Use your ignorant as leverage and stay curious. Ask questions. I guess this echoes with what Steve Jobs said in the 2005 Stanford commencement speech, ‘Stay hungry, stay foolish.’

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