I pick knowledge over ignorance any time

May 3, 2020 By Randy Tucker

One summer we picked up a lot of construction jobs. Hoag, a big college kid who played offensive tackle at Black Hills State, was on the crew along with one of my recently graduated students from Shoshoni.

The high school kid made it a point to always say something ridiculous, talking incessantly of idiotic things he liked to do until one day Hoag had enough of his banter.

"What's so cool about being stupid?" Hoag asked him.

These words coming from an incredibly strong, very big 20-something caught the kid by surprise. Maybe it wasn't a life changer, but it was at least a job -site-changing event for him. He wasn't nearly so ridiculous after that.

We live in an age when people just don't get it, when ignorance is worshipped. Knowledge still matters, but many rely on only perspective, impulse and unwarranted emotion for their viewpoints.

I hear the complaint that English classes are ridiculous for an engineer to take. Why waste your money on classes "you'll never use." goes the rhetoric. Jump back a few years to hear similar idiocy with those claiming that anything beyond Algebra I is a waste of time for high school kids. After all, math is hard to begin with, why not leave it to those Asian and European kids that beat us on national test scores?

It is idiocy incarnate, but what can you expect from the average American when you see who we elect to national office these days? Stupidity is popular. Sadly, it's become a way of life for far too many people.

Why would people need additional coursework in a career outside their prospective field? To answer that I'll relate how the "unnecessary classes" I took have helped me in my four decades after graduating from the University of Wyoming.

I'm not alone. Millions of other people have the same background, the same experience, following a similar path in life. Contrary to the "experts," you don't know what opportunities await you when you're 22 years old.

I'm not a doctor, a nurse, or a medical professional of any kind. I did take a couple of semesters of biology, a human anatomy class, and a kinesiology course. Nope, I don't have the foggiest notion of the source of most ailments, but when a doctor or nurse in my own family describes something, I can understand what they're talking about. When a physician starts to explain something to me, I can comprehend what they're describing. Knowledge is power.

I'm not an attorney either. I took accounting, economics, business law, constitutional law, with several graduate-level classes on the U.S. Constitution. When an attorney in my family elaborates on a legal procedure or my own attorney talks with me about a situation, I can understand what they're describing. It's not all Greek to me. My frame of reference is sufficient to understand the terms they are presenting. Knowledge is power.

I'm not a horticulturalist, a botanist, or a range-management specialist. As a college student, I took a couple of classes in plant and animal taxonomy. As a graduate student I took a fascinating class in identifying the flowers, grasses, and trees of our Rocky Mountain habitat. When I attend a public hearing on encroaching cheat grass or write a story on sage grouse habitat, I have a set point of established knowledge to work from. Knowledge is power.

I've built several houses, dozens of shops, decks, and outbuildings, earning almost as much in running a summertime construction company as I did teaching the other nine months of the year, but I'm not an engineer. I took a couple of classes in chemistry, a physics class, along with calculus. That's enough technical background to understand span charts, wind loads, stress levels, including how to calculate the size of a footing to support the structure I'm planning. No, I don't go out and immediately start constructing something. I have good friends from college that I run my ideas by first that are civil, structural, or architectural engineers. If I've made a mistake, they'll find it. Knowledge is power.

I do have a degree in American history. I took 86 credit hours of American, European, and Asian history. I have a good idea of how things actually work in America. As a result, my viewpoint is sometimes much too cynical. At other times it's much too optimistic.

That's the essence of walking the tightrope of American citizenship. By nature, we are a suspicious lot. When trends happen that happened before, I usually notice them. Knowledge is power.

I'm probably the worst foreign language student whoever took a class in conversational anything, but a semester of Spanish made me a better writer than most of the English classes I took.

I wasn't a fan of freshman English, but I thoroughly enjoyed literature of the West, the South, English literature, and American lit. They augmented my interest in history better than any additional history classes could have.

It took learning a foreign language to understand how verbs, adverbs, adjectives, along with all the other complexities of our intricate language work together. Knowledge is power.

All these auxiliary classes are part of a good liberal arts education. Experts who would do away with the study of English, history, math, anthropology, economics, music, and art have a political agenda.

They want an illiterate electorate. Ignorant people are easier to cajole, convince, and mislead.

Political views shouldn't be just how many rounds your favorite gun can fire in three seconds, but it's come to that with many people. Politics isn't a one-issue affair. If you always vote a straight-party ticket, then you're part of the problem. Issues require thought.

Without a liberal arts education, devoid of a background in the what, why, where, and how of America citizenship, you're powerless in the hands of those who would manipulate you into submission.

In the words of Dean Wormer from the movie "Animal House," "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

Knowledge is power. Don't go through life unarmed.


Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired public school educator.

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