The “Ick” of Ignorance

Finding (x’,y’) on an 2 dimensional plane, given (x,y,z) coordinates:

X^’=(x×d)/(z+d)                                                                                                Y^’=(y×d)/(z+d) 

My heart drops as one of my peers doles out bendy rulers and graphs. Math is not my strong suit by any means (pun intended), and while this is an interdepartmental course, I did not expect to be calculating with my equally as concerned classmates. An air of tension, the aural embodiment of sucking air through your teeth, settles into the room. A girl to the right of me recalls in horror the last time she was prompted with math. Gears are turning, as students try to find the connections between what we are doing and the overall point of the lecture, so as to try to reach equilibrium again.

 

The human condition is wired to find the solution to a problem as quickly as possible, gain insight, and apply it to the next situation if it arises again. This search of homeostasis has kept us alive but has also bred a certain undesirable trait: the fear and rejection of the unknown. It is easier to write myself off as an artistic mind, not an analytical one, and focus my energy to the things I would much rather gain mastery

 

on, than be prompted with a task out of my comfort zone and run the risk of being incorrect, for we as humans associate being incorrect with being proven wrong, and further, with embarrassment. Being wrong is uncomfortable. As social creatures, it calls our reputation and intellect into question, and can potentially close off avenues of interest down the line.

So, I shut down. I revert to a subset of my personality I use as a coping mechanism when faced with uncomfortable situations. I joke around. I question what we are doing. I feel like I am my high school self again, defusing any reason for anyone to question intelligence, filling the class clown archetype. I find myself checking the clock to see when class ends for the first time since the beginning of the semester.

 

This is not Professor Nicodemi’s fault. Her lecture was interesting, contextual, and forced us to analyze in a more objective way, adding tangibility to an abstract piece done by Prince. Her methods of us understanding “the point” made sense in the long run, however unfamiliar it was in the beginning. This sense of tension does not fall on the student’s shoulders either, for it’s not our fault we have been conditioned that if we are not right the first time, we are doomed to a life of ignorance and failure.

We discussed intellectual humility earlier in the semester, and to quote from Vox, the general idea is to “[entertain] the possibility that you may be wrong and being open to learning from the experience of others.” Ignorance is not a dirty word, and I am trying to come terms with that I am not, in fact, an expert on everything I try, and will most likely fail at most things I try to do.

 

Being wrong does not have a subtext of aggression that we need to be wary of. If anything, we should pursue it, and find every opportunity to be proven wrong. Our purpose is not to show how much we know, but to display how much we don’t, and find out how to be guided in the right direction. Being wrong forces us to broaden our horizons, and sometimes we need to take another step towards that window of unfamiliarity to truly get the bigger picture.

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