By Vernon A, Williams
Ignorance is at the core of all that is wrong in this nation. In the most rudimentary sense, ignorance refers to those who are simply uneducated or under-educated. They lack the academic wherewithal to effectively navigate the demands of our society.
This first level of ignorance may be most pervasive but it is also the easiest to rectify. The public and private schools of this country, coupled with institutions of higher learning, have the capacity to reverse the systemic perpetuation of failing students and scholars.
Put simply, if America invested the same measure of financial, human and intellectual resources to better systems of pre-K through doctoral degree learning, we would be far better off as a nation.
And yes, it is true. Not every successful high school graduate is cut out for a four-year or even two-year, in some cases, degree. In such cases, much more intense strategizing and implementation is demanded in training and post-secondary education to enhance the skills of career technical education students.
Meet our citizenry where they live and insist on this nation eradicating the kind of ignorance born of unpreparedness to cope. Every man and woman seeks, and deserves, an opportunity to make a decent living doing something that contributes to the vast complexion of the American workforce.
A second level of ignorance runs deep in America beyond the classroom. People are ignorant of each other. Despite appearances to the contrary, people in this country exist in virtual silos that keep them in constant contact with people who look and think like them.
To be clear, the definition of a ‘good’ neighborhood does not carry the prerequisite of inclusion or diversity. Yes, it is imperative that people of all races, denominations, nationalities and ideologies have the right and freedom to live together in peace. But it is not a prerequisite for harmony or better understanding.
No, that’s not a contradiction.
Blacks and whites can live in totally separate neighborhoods and still erase the ignorance that thwarts racial understanding through consistent social interactions, formal or causal forums on relevant topics, volunteer experiences, shared input in governance, community engagement initiatives and teamwork in crisis management.
In other words, given the option of people of all races living in every urban, suburban and rural living community of the U.S. as opposed to more intentional, structured and frequent impactful and sustainable interracial interaction – the latter will always be the better of the two options. Where both exist, even better.
The third and final level of ignorance is characterized by ideology that refuses to allow the influence of differing opinions, or even proven facts, as individuals and massive groups of people opt to have their thoughts and deeds grounded in the unstable foundation of misdirection and purposeful distortion of reality.
This final category is, for all intents and purposes, ignorance by choice. Most often it is a decision guided by selfish political or economic pursuits at one end and by the inability to distinguish truth from life at the other end of the spectrum. Both extremities buy into the ignorance of unfounded dogma to support fundamental beliefs in glaring conflict with the greater good.
That’s why people who espouse love for democracy perpetuate, ignore or accept patently racist policies that suppress the vote; how people who endorse ‘right to life’ deny citizens of another persuasion the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness; why devout believers in the constitutional experience little or no discomfort excluding certain citizens.
Academic, social and ideological ignorance are the three heads of the same monster preventing this nation from achieving its greatest potential.
The situation is far from hopeless. Isolating the source of a dire illness is the most essential step toward identifying and implementing a cure. Keep the faith knowing there are still more good people than evil in this nation, in this world, and in the end our better angels will prevail.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].