After 28 years on the planet, there is a lot I do know. I know how to make gourmet breakfasts in 5 minutes flat. I know when to use “who” versus “whom,” and how to offer constructive feedback to others. I also admit that my brain cells are being used to store all the lyrics to Young MC’s “Bust a Move” and dialogue from the movie 3 Ninjas.
Then there are the myriad things I don’t know. When Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, I had no idea who she was, nor who her father was. For a long time, I was embarrassed not to understand the sub-prime lending crisis. If I happened to get lost in a forest, I would be eaten by wolves before I could navigate my way out or build shelter. I imagine that I could learn these things if I just dedicated a bit of time, but it never seems to materialize.
I am a firm believer that knowing where to find the answers is much more important than knowing them cold. That said, it’s tough to sneak a Wikipedia search on my Blackberry when the crisis in Darfur comes up in conversation. I would feel a lot more self-assured if my knowledge exceeded the Tarzan level: “Global warming: bad. Civil rights: good.”
My familiarity with many subjects reminds me of a Woody Allen quote: “I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.” A friend of mine calls this “Impostor Syndrome”—knowing just enough to appear informed about a subject, fearing that at any moment someone will ask a question that reveals your ignorance. In a recent radio broadcast, This American Life called this charade “Modern Jackass.”
Instead of thinking, “I wish I had time to learn more about __________” (salsa dancing, the African Diaspora, designing web pages), as I have done for years, and constantly feeling ashamed at all the things I “should” know by now, I am finally going to make the time to learn them. I imagine that you have your own list, and I hope that you’ll join me in seeking a cure for Impostor’s Syndrome and ridding the planet of another modern jackass.
This post is part of the series “Why Reschool?”