The Art of Ignorance


Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. | Martin Luther King, Jr

According to a recent poll, more than one-quarter of Americans don’t know the answer to this question: Which country did the American colonists fight in the Revolutionary War? The number of incorrect answers was higher for 18-29 year olds (40 percent incorrect). Let’s be fair… historical information usually is committed to short-term memory for the purpose of passing a test. Because it seldom connects to real life, it doesn’t make the trip to long-term memory. We all have forgotten a lot of information we “learned” in school.

There are, however, some people who choose to use ignorance like an artist uses a paint brush–it is a tool to accomplish a desired end. We see this in people who use phrases like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” and “That’s news to me.” Why do people pretend to be ignorant of things we are certain they know?

  1. They prefer ignorance over change. People who don’t want to think differently will plead ignorance in order to protect their archaic habits. If they agree with new ways of thinking, they might have to do something they’ve never done before.
  2. They prefer ignorance over responsibility. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, they can’t be held accountable for doing anything about it. The problem is that their irresponsibility becomes someone else’s responsibility. When they bail on things they should do, someone else must do it.
  3. They prefer ignorance over thinking. Ignorance is a common strategy for backwards-focused people and organizations. I know people who are stuck in 1979 and organizations that are stuck in 1950. Until they stop making excuses and start thinking, their best days are behind them.

Some people might think ignorance is an art. I disagree. I believe ignorance is a defense mechanism people use to fend off creativity and ingenuity. You can hide behind your ignorance or you can be a creative force. You can’t, however, do both. Think about it!

What are you doing to unleash your creativity?