Knowledge

Truth - Knowledge is power. What we choose to do with that power though makes all the difference. Knowledge can be used to the benefit of others. It can be a tool utilized for liberation just as easily at it be a used to oppress. Knowledge can provide choice, agency, and control in the same ways that it can limit, obscure, and dictate. Knowledge does not come with an inherent values judgment. Those who bear it's weight must decide what to do with it. This is knowledge.

"Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family." Kofi Annan
Do you ever feel like you just know too much? It sounds like the plot of a 1920's crime ring that you have just unwittingly uncovered, and you're set to be "taken care of" because you gained some knowledge you weren't supposed to have. There is this unspoken burden that comes with knowledge. You have to do something with it otherwise it is truly meaningless. It is not inherently utilitarian. Those who possess it become its arbiters. Only 6% of the world's population has a bachelor's degree. Think about that. In the US that's about 32% of the nation's population achieving that status of educational attainment. Not everyone earns their degree and still even more people don't get to college in the first place. While college is not for everyone and not necessary for all, there needs to be equitable opportunity for those who want to go to be able to. The charge for those who are able to further their education in this traditional way is to do good, give back, and to share their knowledge with others. We have to use our educations in and outside of the classrooms to do better and be better. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Each day we are tasked with using what we know for the betterment of the world around us.

That traditional education in the ivory towers of academia only teaches us so much. In fact, much of what we know comes from our life experiences and that is something we all share. We all have much to give in that way and much to learn. We need not dismiss others because of their education, formal or informal. There are ways in which we use what we know as weapons. We cut, slice, and swashbuckle with our words in mystifying ways. It has it's place but more often than not it is pretentious, elitist, and alienating. Language and others ways that we communicate gives us a medium through which to connect to other people. Using technical terms, specialized language, and words only used in the hallows of academia when the same can be said in simpler and/or more useful ways is out of touch. We need to know our audiences and meet them where they are. There are times and places where we can dance with the intricate beauties of language, rhyme, and prose. There are times to bring out the slang, vernacular, and colloquialisms. The way we speak should bring us together, build community, and forge connection not sever it. Just because we know does not mean we know how to best communicate that knowledge or always have an obligation to do so.
This whole idea of being teacher and learner is multifaceted though. We find ourselves frustrated if we are relegated to just one or the other. Having the opportunity to be both is absolutely imperative. To constantly be teaching, something I find myself doing, is emotionally exhausting, physically taxing, and unsustainable. Explaining the same things over and over to new people gets old at some point even though you know those you are teaching are new. You have to give grace and be patient. People learn in different ways and no two people learn the same way. We can't expect people to know what we know, they're not us. We want everyone to just be up to speed and that's just not how the world works. What might have been important for us to learn may have not even been a priority for someone else. The significance we place on certain knowledge in relative and depends on your perspective. That point right there is what can be so angering. Why don't people know? Shouldn't everyone know? It's not-productive, not right, and downright demeaning. I have to check myself particularly when I am nearing my teaching limit to shake those belittlingly pretentious thoughts away. It's not fair, and others could easily say the same about me at times on various topics. Guess what, if someone doesn't know but is learning now, that's all that matters.

The flipside is being the one to learn is tough. No one likes feeling unprepared. People show up to conversations and truly are not prepared to have dynamic dialogue around topics. Take diversity, privilege, and oppression for example. Oftentimes those with normalized identities have no idea what to say, how to share, and remain uncomfortable when in reality they might have limited experience, if any, with actually being critical of their viewpoints and worldview. You can tell because the conversation is lacking, totally superficial, and vague. There's no vulnerability or passion because someone may not know enough. We have to admit our areas of improvement and accept help to learn/take the time ourselves to get educated. At some point being the learner becomes tiresome as well. Showing up to spaces and places and not knowing gets to be problematic, especially when you have had the opportunity to learn and did not so well enough or chose not to. We don't know what we don't know. We cannot fault others for their ignorance or obliviousness. We can hold others accountable for choosing to remain aloof when they have been provided chances to learn. At that point it becomes willful ignorance and their lack of knowledge is on them. Teach, as you are able, physically and mentally, but be willing to learn and be taught when you need to be. X

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