Intellectual Ignorance in the United States

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“The premise of opinion polling is that people are, and of right ought to be, omni-opinionated – that they should have views on all subjects at all times – and that all such views are equally valid.” – Michael Kinsley, ‘The Intellectual Free Lunch’. According to this quote, it is stated that everyone has an equal view and that every opinion should have sway. Everyone, regardless of their actual ability to reasonably understand a situation, should have an opinion that is recognized, even if it doesn’t even fall in their personal jurisdiction of affairs. The idea that everyone should have say within a matter, regardless of their ignorance to the subject matter and disregarding the level of intellect that the individual may have, is quite possibly the most idiotic and potentially detrimental suggestion I’ve ever heard.

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According to a research study conducted by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy in 2003, 14% of adult Americans showed that they had a “below basic” level of literacy. The fact that so many Americans show such a poor level of literacy shows that some people are at a disadvantage when it comes to important intellectual matter. Being well versed in literature is very important when it comes to some tasks, especially since it helps develop better skills in being able to concentrate, be more creative, be able to think critically, and be able to understand bigger pictures. Having a lack of any of these skill will cause others to have a harder time working in matters that don’t encompass their usual affairs. Having the input of someone ill-suited to discuss important matters can be damaging to the end result of the groups analysis and possibly result in a failure, however this won’t always be the case. Simply because someone is illiterate doesn’t mean that they aren’t an ignorant individual.

There are plenty of examples of people who were successful in their lives without being able to read or write. Byzantine Emperor Justin, 8th Century ruler Charlemagne, Sojourner Truth, and Genghis Khan are all examples of people in history that accomplished impressive feats despite their inability to write and/or read. Granted, Charlemagne did attempt to as he saw the worth in learning to write and read, but the fact still stands that he managed to live a successful life without it. So no, having the input of someone who is illiterate will not always result in a failure, but it will heighten the chances of it success becoming less probable. Nevertheless, the topic at hand is how having someone who is ignorant involved in an opinion poll is a terrible idea and that not all opinions are equally valid.

So, with that in mind, I can use the examples previously stated to say that while each illiterate individual was successful, it was only because they were working on tasks that they were accustomed to. Each of them are intelligent in their own manner of speaking, but when dealing with tasks outside their scope of what they know they wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as they were with what they did know. Just because someone is ignorant to a specific task, problem, or subject of a discussion doesn’t mean that they are not smart in their own way themselves. As Einstein once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This isn’t directly stating the point trying to be made, but it does allude to it. Everyone has the ability to put forth their own input on subject, but it is ‘stupid’ for someone to put forth their input on something they are not versed in. Just as a fish shouldn’t explain how to climb a tree, an ignorant farmer shouldn’t put forth the knowledge of how to disarm a bomb, and a young child shouldn’t tell an army how to stop a continental war.

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