Willful Ignorance


(An Essay)

 One of my pet peeves is what I describe as “willful Ignorance”. There are people who are just unknowledgeable about many things.  For instance, I’m completely ignorant about calculus. I never learned that. No one knows everything. But should I become interested in a subject, let’s say, gardening, it’s possible to become a very good gardener if you work at it and acquire the skill and knowledge. An elementary example, of course;   you can’t just decide to be an atomic physicist, for instance. That takes years of education, degrees, lab work, etc.  I’m not an atomic physicist, that wouldn’t make me or any other non-physicist willfully ignorant. The subject isn’t in our purview and that’s fine.

It’s when there’s factual and verifiable information, and people refuse to even consider glancing at it that I consider the ignorance willful. One such example -“Global Warming”.  There’s a speedily expanding hole in our ozone layer, we’ve had a multitude of extreme weather events, unusually warm areas, unusually rainy or snowy areas, that are way beyond the norm. Yet there are those who will stick their fingers in their ears and loudly scream ”La,la,la”. Totally ignoring that which is right in front of their nose.  That‘s willful (deliberate) ignorance. No matter what the evidence is, it doesn’t matter because they said so.

Another situation which bothers me is the insistence that the USA is a CHRISTIAN nation founded by Christians for Christians. They will totally ignore the fact that separation of church and state IS IN THE CONSTITUTION. They will ignore the letters of the founding fathers who enumerated their opinions on the defects or lack in religion, as they viewed the subject. They ignore the “Treaty of Tripoli”.  This is a direct copy of Article 11 of the treaty of Tripoli:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries (emphasis mine).

The above should be clear enough even for the willfully ignorant, but that‘s what makes them willfully so. The prime factor in most willful ignorance is denial, or refusal to accept facts, because it conflicts with their beliefs. Never mind volumes and volumes of history, science, knowledge through centuries of hard work and effort. That doesn’t matter, they will stick to their outmoded or incorrect ideas, regardless of the evidence.

I was watching the Republican candidates debates, recently. There were several candidate hopefuls, 8 or 9 to my recollection. When the moderator posited the question, all except one of them (Huntsman) of them said they didn’t believe in evolution or science, or global warming. In other words creationists or IDers. What does that tell you? What has happened to even the rudiments of education: the thirst for knowledge? Where did that disappear to? They say “knowledge is power”, it is. Though it would seem that in this country, at least, it’s “willful ignorance is power”. Education seems to be frowned upon. If you’re an educated person you’re considered “Elitist” or a snob or not a real person. Today there are elements in this society that demean education, rather than encourage it.

There are parents “home schooling” their children because they don’t want them to learn the facts about science and history. Deliberately filling the receptive minds with more willfully ignorant curriculum, rather than have them know the truth they’d find in a public school. They become unfit adults in time. Unfit to be a part of the society they were born in. Willfully ignorant adults teaching   children  to become willfully ignorant. These in turn become the next generation of the willfully ignorant masses. The cycle continues.

I know, all “home schooling” isn’t bad. I know of some parents who have given their children a better education through home schooling than they would have gotten otherwise. The subject in this post is “willful ignorance” and not home schooling per se. Right at this time in our country, some are rewriting the history of America  and foisting that on our children as fact. The Civil War for instance, no longer had anything to do with slavery, for instance. Oh no, it was a dissatisfaction, a disagreement if you will on how to govern the country. Slavery? What slavery? Never heard of it. Certainly nothing to do with the Civil War!

A short synopsis…

The United States presidential election of 1860 set the stage for the American Civil War. The nation had been divided throughout most of the 1850s on questions of states’ rights and slavery in the territories. In 1860, this issue finally came to a head, fracturing the formerly dominant Democratic Party  into Southern and Northern factions and bringing Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party to power without the support of a single Southern state. Hardly more than a month following Lincoln’s victory came declarations of secession by South Carolina and other states, which were rejected as illegal by outgoing President James Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln.

Further information: Origins of the American Civil War

The origins of the American Civil War lay in the complex issues of slavery, competing understandings of federalism, party politics, expansionism, sectionalism, tariffs, and economics. After the Mexican-American War, the issue of slavery in the new territories led to the Compromise of 1850. While the compromise averted an immediate political crisis, it did not permanently resolve the issue of The Slave Power (the power of slaveholders to control the national government).

Amid the emergence of increasingly virulent and hostile sectional ideologies in national politics, the collapse of the old Second Party System in the 1850s hampered efforts of the politicians to reach yet another compromise. The result was the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which alienated Northerners and Southerners alike. With the rise of the Republican Party, the first truly sectional major party, the industrializing North and agrarian Midwest became committed to the economic ethos of free-labor industrial capitalism. (When the Republican Party really stood for something… Now they are totally opposite in their policies.)

I can’t be the only one who sees this trend of willful ignorance and out and out revisionist attitude affecting the very fabric of our country. There must be some way to reverse this trend before we go down the road of the other civilizations that fell by the wayside because of the ignorant few power wielders and destroyers of learned discourse and advancement. Or are we also doomed? A noble, but failed experiment.


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