Magazine article USA TODAY

You Know What

Magazine article USA TODAY

You Know What

Article excerpt

IT IS A MISTAKE anyone could make. You have a limited, or even negative, experience in some arena and assume that it pretty much is what you need to know about it. For example, in my undergrad art student days, I first used pastels. It was not a good experience. Perhaps it was the instructor, perhaps me; it probably was some of both. I left that course feeling like I had wasted a lot of money on colored chalk that really did not do much except make an expensive mess on expensive paper. Twenty-plus years later, I noticed that many of the artists whose work I admire in magazines, books, and galleries are pastel painters. Three short courses with three different pastel instructors later, I am as enthusiastic as I ever have been in pursuing art--more enthusiastic, I think, than in my brief career as a trying-tobe-a-working-artist. I clearly did not know how much I did not know. Right now, I know I do not know a heck of a lot about pastels, and I am happily plowing onward into the unknown.

This certainly is a problem in education. Some students do not know that they do not know (meaning, it does not occur to them that, naturally, there is a gap in their knowledge and understanding) and quite often it seems to me as if some people have conspired to keep them that way. Thus, a graduate student in counseling "discovers" Carl Rogers (they ought to have been formally introduced in Psych 101) and notes Rogers' similarity to a recent modality based almost entirely on Rogers' own work. If you do not know the basics, how will you make sense of the complex resting upon those basics?

It is, perhaps, most notably a problem when we look at how people are reacting to national politics. In November, we therapists witnessed panic: some people cancelled therapy appointments because they were too distraught to come in after Election Day. Others wept because they felt that people they knew, who voted for the victor, somehow betrayed them. Then people marched in the street wearing pink hats (who paid for those, anyhow?--and how did they all end up in Washington and available to all these angry souls?) and expressed outrage. I saw a news clip of an articulate, earnest-looking young woman asserting, to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd, that she might be willing to support the new president, but "He has to support me first."

I wish that a national news organization had interviewed her so I could understand what she means by "support" and where in the Constitution she finds the basis for demanding whatever it is from the President (or any other part of the government). She (and apparently thousands of other people) do not know what they do not know: they do not know that the new Administration does not seem to be taking aim at them, or that the Constitution or the law of the land probably do not address the President "supporting" them (whatever that means) unless they happen to be his minor child or spouse.

Apparently, some of these women are shocked to learn that men might sometimes be blunt in conversation with other men. Thus, a celebrity noted for rolling around in a wedding dress without her underpants threatened violence (shortly thereafter recanted) because a man, in a private conversation, used vulgar language for female body parts and otherwise engaged in the kind of blather not intended for ladies to hear. …

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