Editorial: Don’t treat ignorance like a valuable quality

University students should know how to find reliable research.

Hailee Schievelbein

Hailee Schievelbein

by The Minnesota Daily Editorial Board

Ignorance isn’t bliss, and for those of us privileged enough to be attending college, it isn’t an excuse either. It’s certainly not a quality to strive for, despite the current political climate’s dismissal of facts and research. 

A common insult to lob at the college-educated “elite” is that intelligence is too highly prioritized and used to cut off the less educated from understanding. There are certainly points to be made about complicated rhetoric, or jargon-filled speech, but speaking intelligently about important subjects shouldn’t be something that our leaders stop doing. 

It’s a complicated issue, and the solution is not just to make every subject as simple as possible. We lose nuance when we refuse to talk about difficult subjects with all of their complexities.

This disapproval of elevated language and rhetoric is part of a larger issue. Generally, it’s fair to say that the American public has lost faith in expertise, study and research. 

You don’t personally have to be an expert in a subject to know whether facts are true or false. Information has become more democratized in the past decade. You have a massive amount of information at your fingertips at any given time and the ability to do research. 

Almost everyone can do a simple Google search. That doesn’t mean there is no false information on the internet, but if you’re a college student, you’ve been taught at some point how to check what’s credible and what isn’t.

Maybe you don’t want to do a Google search of the complicated situation in the Middle East. Maybe you’re too busy, or you don’t care about it. That’s your choice — but if it is, then don’t try to weigh in on the subject as if you know better than people who have studied it extensively.

Above all, don’t fiercely advocate for positions you don’t understand. In 2015, Public Policy Polling asked voters if they would support bombing Agrabah. Agrabah is a fictional country from the film Aladdin, yet 43 percent of Republican responders and 55 percent of Democrat responders had a defined viewpoint on this non-existent political issue. 

There is no excuse for believing in fictional countries. Misinformation abounds, but we have the skill set to fact-check, find reliable sources and know what kind of sources shouldn’t be trusted. All students have to do it at one point in their college education. There’s no excuse for standing behind the spread misinformation or laud ignorance. 

You don’t have to be an expert to do cursory research. Other people have studied subjects for years to gain the knowledge they have, and when you find them cited in a reliable source, that generally means they know what they’re talking about, or at the very least, more than you do.

Yes, experts have biases. Everyone does. But when you refuse to listen to anyone outside of yourself or your echo chamber, that is its own kind of dangerous bias. Knowledge is a necessity, and no one person knows best on every subject. Wanting to question those who present us with higher knowledge is natural. But in most cases, we have to trust the experts.