You Now Know Everything. Or Should

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There was, and perhaps still is, the axiom that "ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law." Whether it be a traffic law, or a trespassing law, copyright infringement, or the law of gravity.

Today it is the case that "ignorance is no excuse for anything." Literally every bit of information you may need can be found on Google, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, and on and on.

As well, not knowing the what and why of just about anything new to you is almost inexcusable. Old habits die hard, as well I know. It is often enough I find myself wondering about some odd phenomena that puzzles me, and has done so for perhaps decades. And yet, a simple Internet search will often find a reasonable answer, or at least lead to one, in seconds. Sometimes in milliseconds. Still, by habit I suppose, I ask my wife. That she is usually right is beside the point. As a note, however, while reading about brain surgery is a good thing, I do not suggest you actually try it merely from an article or two.

For the student, any student, this is both a curse and a blessing (a secular blessing, that is, if such is possible). Let me explain with an example. I had a student recently who, upon my explaining to the class that they should stop me if I use a word or phrase that they do not understand, told us that she (I'll just use "she" here as it is so less awkward than she/he") had had a very difficult time in another class because of the unfamiliar words used. Her obstacles were three-fold.First, English was her second language, second, she had little or none of the cultural capital (parent's education and worldly background) which means that she didn't know what she didn't know. Thirdly, she had never though of her phone as an encyclopedia. She does now. And I still encourage students to ask for clarification in the class room. But...


Use it. I am, right now, writing on a laptop, with what I think is an important message. I am, in spite of my dubious status as a teacher, really not the greatest speller. As well, in my readings I do come upon a new or rarely used word that I do not understand, or perhaps the context in which it is being used. Note, that this has always been a problem to some degree, and understandably, much more so at the beginning of my education - long before the advent of the personal computer. However now, instead of going across the room to the dictionary, or interrupting whomever is in earshot, I highlight the word and choose "look up" or "define" and with extremely rare occurrence, have the definition in front of me instantly. Done deal.


Also, there may be a name or a place or a thing or a process that is new. Most often all you need to do is highlight the word, and depending on whether you are online or merely relying on a dictionary on your computer. If it is a date or a name or something a bit more complicated, then, when on the web, just start throwing search phrases into your favorite browser.
The point:
Don't just sit there. If you don't know the word or phrase or whatever, it is probably a few seconds away. I suspect you know this already, but here is the thing: As I opened with, there is no longer an excuse for not knowing pretty much everything.

The point of the point:

Being so informed, or capable of being informed, what about making those informed decisions on those issues that are really, really important to you. I am talking about voting. If you are not informed, you will likely either not vote which is essentially giving your not to someone else. This could easily result in leadership or policies that are counter to your interests - dangerously so. Whatever it is that is befuddling you, whether it be spiritual, psychological, physiological, or intellectual in nature, the necessary information is probably only a few keystrokes away. Take a look at that phone in your pocket. Now use it.


As a point of irony, in my classes I encourage students to look things up even during my precious lectures. I even sometimes ask for someone in the class to look something up such as a date or a name. Sometimes I chide them for not taking advantage of cheating, so to speak - albeit this is a bit nuanced. Not everyone sees the utility of this. I actually got dinged on my evaluation once for poor class room management due to students looking at their cell phones. I eventually convinced my evaluators of the usefulness of the cell phone in the classroom, in spite of a rarely used thing called trust. (This was a college class mind you.)
As technologies keep emerging, so does the unpredictability of their application. A fellow named William F. Ogburn referred to this phenomena as "cultural lag."

Stop lagging.