The Arrogance Of Ignorance

from: Mark Mywrdz

The Arrogance Of Ignorance Your livelihood and your future are both in peril. The threat you face derives not from any external factors that may affect your company. Instead, it comes from your own employees. The deadliest business hazard of our time is the result of a sea change in the American approach to education that occurred early in the 1970s. Across the United States, conventional educational standards were tossed out the window, replaced with feel-good theories like "whole- language learning" that emphasized personal fulfillment over the accumulation of hard knowledge. As a result, we now have two generations of men and women who expect gold stars not for succeeding, but simply for trying. And, sometimes, merely for showing up. In Great Britain, even primary school students can name all the monarchs of England. How many American children can name the capital of their own state? In India, the study of mathematics is practically a religion. In the United States, how many retail clerks can make change without relying on a calculator? In Germany, vocational education is a rigorous and honorable pursuit, producing highly qualified workers and tradesmen. In the U.S.A., people actually boast about their inability to deal with anything mechanical. But sheer stupidity is not the greatest danger presented by the current crop of blank slates. It is the arrogance bred of ignorance that constitutes an unparalleled descent into goofiness. In the long-dead past, incompetents generally recognized their own incapacity and behaved accordingly. Today, every jackass sees himself as a genius, and every fool fancies herself a philosopher. Once, a young colleague at a major firm accosted me in tones of confusion and desperation. "Mark! Mark!" she called as I walked past her office door. "When was World War II?" I thought at first that she was joking, but, alas, she was not. The deadliest global conflict in human history had somehow escaped her notice. Yet if I had asked if she honestly believed she deserved her B.A. and felt qualified to perform her job, she would have been gravely insulted and likely kicked me until I was dead. Like the pod people of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the arrogantly ignorant appear at first glance as normal as you or me. But beware. The most profound risk they represent springs not from their cluelessness, but from their inability to recognize their own limitations. Such blind hubris can lead to monumental errors of judgment, grotesque mistakes, and the refusal to accept -- despite a mountain of evidence -- that the strategy they are pursuing may be leading your organization off a cliff. When people like that are in your employ, it is you, not they, who suffer the consequences. These days, the arrogance of ignorance is so pervasive that I feel confident in making a small wager: Ten bucks says that the worst offenders will read these words and wonder, "Who is this joker talking about?"



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