I Don’t Know

Education can be as rigid as it is fickle, and throughout this semester, Philosophy has challenged one of the most prevalent mindsets that have been around for as long as I have been in the Ateneo.

There’s a big stigma attached to not knowing something. Since grade school, it has already been hard-wired into students to think of low scores, blank spaces, and wrong answers as a sign of incompetence—that one did not study enough, or that one did not have the sufficient mental capacity to work out the problems. Are the people who go frequently go through these problems truly incompetent? Considering that there are several cases where college dropouts and academically average students end up even more successful than those who dedicated their whole student lives to studying, I would think not.

Nevertheless, it is evident that things aren’t very desirable for either side of the situation. People are judged and objectified based on their grades and academic achievements, but while grades are indeed important to test one’s ability and maintain some kind of university standards, it has turned into nothing more than a chore for many students. Parents and teachers put pressure on gifted students to maintain a decent standing, and these students are often pushed to the limit, to the point where it becomes detrimental to their physical and mental well-being. At the same time, those with below average grades are seemingly ignored and set aside in favor of the overachievers. It is not uncommon for people to feel shame, and at times some even come to loathe the entire educational system. People should be going to school with an eager intent to learn and develop, but even this simple goal has been tarnished and crudely narrowed down to just be a struggle to get the highest grades possible.

Quite obviously, I would think that this is not the kind of mindset that the Ateneo wishes to instill in its students. To this, I give the spotlight to philosophy, as it has given me a much-needed new perspective with regards to the topic at hand. Not knowing something is not something to be ashamed of, and in fact, it has served as the basis or inspiration for many philosophers to create the works that are being used in various universities today. To be able to truly reflect and garner useful insights from whatever situation, one has to be aware not only of the things that one knows, but also the things that one doesn’t know. Of course, it is not enough to simply be aware that you don’t know something. What separates the incompetent and the ignorant from those who are truly willing to learn are those that take this opportunity to do something about it.

When someone says “I don’t know,” it should not immediately be taken against the person. Not knowing something is not a weakness or a flaw that has to be hidden from sight, but a springboard by which one can further improve and self-cultivate. Failing a test or being unable to answer a question is not the end of the road. It is true that the most effective and hard-hitting lessons come from mistakes, and not knowing something always presents an opportunity to be a better person in the future.

Nio Atrigenio
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