Thursday, October 16, 2014

"What Do You Know?!" in Knowledge Use Context

More of a mindset than a strategy, knowledge "certainty" often occurs without a lot of conscious intent. Who is certain...and why? Hence, this post also serves to give a "button pushing" phrase the benefit of the doubt. Given the right circumstances, plenty of certainty about one's subject matter makes a good conversation starter. That in turn, means further impetus for dialogue and exploration which otherwise might not occur. In other words, "annoying" perspectives can provide a point of entry, for knowledge use in action.

Sometimes, "What do you know?!" is implicit in the course of conversation, as a form of hidden opposition. Or, the person who asks, doesn't care to hear what someone else thinks. When this happens, other issues may be at stake besides knowledge certainty. In one (of a series) Muppet Commercial for Pizza Hut, Miss Piggy "slams" Jessica Simpson, with this question. Whereupon Jessica good naturedly pulls out a blackboard and shows off her math "smarts", of all things.

That commercial stuck in my memory, in part because the context was apt regarding what often happens to economic access. Initially, I had utilized the question as a (book) chapter name during an early phase of this project. Which as my readers know, it's a good thing I've been able to blog. Because my thought processes continue to evolve, quicker than I've been able to organize them in a readily recognizable format.

To a degree, limits in ordinary discourse reflect the larger limitations for knowledge use which are also imposed by the elite. Much of today's suppressed economic growth, resides here. Even in my youth, "What do you know?!" was a phrase that students used to insult one another.

Everyone knows someone who doesn't hesitate to tell us that we don't have enough information to make a reasoned assumption. What's more, the conclusions we have already arrived at are faulty, and therefore need to be amended for the more up to date, conclusive, or otherwise higher quality information that the other party has exclusive access to. We should be glad that they are so sparing of their time to clue us in!

Indeed, they might well be right. What's more, when anyone is exposed to the "higher wisdom" in a somewhat aggressive form, many are more inclined to remember the exchange. Fortunately, the experience may spur one to action as well - whether that action is geared towards or against what one hears. Or, in some instances, what one deciphers may need to be defined with further clarity or in broader context. At the very least, forceful delivery can make it easier afterward to think about the exchange with a healthy dose of skeptical doubt.

Passive forms of "What do you know?!" can be more confusing, hence possibly detrimental in some instances. The message in general is that one might be smart, driven, focused or whatever...but how can it really be expected to matter in the "scheme of things"? This is the subtle message many receive when they are young from family and friends, which can also manifest in a degree of uncertainty should one want to attend college or start a business. By no means is this scenario limited to environments where family and other close relations have not experienced some degree of success.

While one associates motivational factors as problematic for lower income levels, low expectations can result from other circumstance as well. For instance: to what degree were low economic expectations an emotional adaption to the Great Depression? Doubtless, some from the "Greatest Generation" experienced difficulties in such a way, that they consequently expected offspring to make pragmatic decisions and not "reach for the stars". Today's younger victims of the Great Recession, will be more likely to pass low expectations to at least some of their offspring as well.

Hence, "overly assertive" individuals may propel one to pursue more expansive versions of life, while the second knowledge use mindset can actually discourage one from doing so. Yes, the second group will be more easygoing and reasonable in some important respects. When economic times are relatively normal, "going with the flow" can be a very good life strategy. However these are not normal economic times, and going with the flow today can mean losing one's financial position in a hurry. Sometimes a benign approach can stand in the way of one's ability to succeed.

So the "What do you know?!" crowd can spur one another on, whether or not they agree. The fact that opposing viewpoints energize each other mean that success is possible, particularly if no one viewpoint completely cancels the other. It's the moving forward aspect of dialogue that provides hope, and the recognition that action need not rely on a single "end all be all" point in the discussion. Fortunately, there are environments in which dialogue can further evolve - even when institutions which try to maintain "official" versions, would just as soon everyone wrap up the discussion.

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