Ignorant but with Self-Esteem

June 23, 1999

We received an e-mail the other day that said "If ignorance is bliss, you people must be euphoric." Well, so much for my fan mail! But the comment is especially apropos in light of a recent story in the New York Post.

Mark Goldblatt tells a story of a freshman writing assignment. The students are to respond to the following quotation: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." After the students copy the words into their notebooks, he asks them to name the author. None of them know. He says in 10 years, only 5 students have identified the author as Karl Marx (and all 5 were foreign students).

After silence, he usually offers them a hint: the author was German. Finally an older black student raised her hand and asked, "Was it Martin Luther?" The class roared with laughter. Goldblatt was puzzled, until another student tapped her on the shoulder and said, "Don't you know he was a brother?" The reason for the laughter dawned on him. The class thought she meant Martin Luther King. Their jaws dropped as he began to explain who Martin Luther was.

Goldblatt offers two insights. First, they don't know what they should know. Second, they assume they knew a lot more than they actually do. He concludes that today ignorance is not tempered with humility but instead by arrogance buoyed by self-esteem.

The column unfortunately rings only too true to me. As one who speaks to lots of high school and college students, I am not only amazed at how much they don't know, but also amazed by how much they don't care. They offer passionate perspectives on things they know nothing about and aren't even patient enough to learn the facts before they spout their personal theories. True education begins with humility.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.