You study, study, study, and at the end, you are lucky enough to discover the greatest gift of education: that you know nothing at all.— E.J. Koh (@thisisEJKoh) January 7, 2014
As a new graduate and a current teacher, EJ Koh’s tweet is too relevant. And too funny.
At university, I studied for a Bachelor of Arts with a drama major and English minor and I also did a degree in secondary education.
The drama program at my university is pretty good if you’re in the BFA program, and the BA is not too bad — except that half (if not more) of what I learned I actually learned from extracurricular activities. I would never have learned what I know about lighting design and sound design had I not thrown myself into designing two different shows… and I still feel like I hardly know the tiniest bit about it. If you do BFA Drama, you have to choose a specialty or focus: acting, tech, or stage management. The BA is meant to allow students to dabble in all areas, except that it doesn’t.
As I say, I learned half of what I know from extracurriculars, not my classes.
In English, it took me three years before I felt like I was learning something. The first year was easy for me because I did AP English when I was in my final year of high school — my first year at university was like a recap for me. Second and third year were harder, with many concepts going over my head, and I started regretting my choice to study English. My last two years were the most enjoyable, though: suddenly I was able to understand the concepts and I was able to read with the right mindset, noticing the big picture a little more easily.
But I didn’t feel as if the classes taught me that. Something just clicked one day, and English classes were then easier for me. So in all honesty, I don’t feel like university taught me much about English at all. I suppose I did learn lots about what literature can do, and I learned to see writing as the voice of the author, not just a piece on its own… but I didn’t learn that from classes. I just learned it.
I spent five years studying drama, English, and education itself, only to realize that I had learned basically nothing.
And that’s the kicker: you learn, but you still know nothing.
You learn a lot about one subject, and then you stop and realize just how big the world is.
There is way too much out there to say we know anything.
In school, they teach you to question everything, that nothing is conclusive, there is no right and wrong. Even in math and science, this is true, because as soon as anyone can disprove something, everything goes out the window. I mean, remember that time when some scientists thought they discovered something faster than the speed of light?
What if they had?
When I was in elementary school, my teacher told me that scientists always say, “We used to know this. Now we know this,” but it just keeps getting repeated, over and over.
I didn’t really understand what she meant then, but now I do.
Nobody knows anything.
I’m supposed to be a professional. On paper, I know everything I need to know, but really, I don’t.
And now here I am teaching kids things I don’t know anything about, and their brains are being wired to believe. When I have a class old enough to get into some real critical thinking, I teach them to question, and their minds are just absolutely blown, especially when it’s something like, “How do you know that? How can you be sure?”
I either get the look of, “Holy shit, I don’t!” or “Come on, you idiot, we know it. It’s as simple as that.”
Both of them are right…?
I kind of think that realizing how little we know is a blessing. Like EJ Koh says, we are lucky to realize this. It’s humbling, and it puts us in our place. Learning is a gift in itself, but it it’s such a big moment when we realize how small we are in a world so big.
Even though I’m always seeking more “knowledge,” I like how little I know.
I mean, it’s nice to think that there’s more out there beyond what we think and “know,” … isn’t it?
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