College students: You (we) don’t know everything

Feb. 16, 2015

Scribe Staff
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“The only wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates

As college students, we are already above the pack. We are brighter than most. But we, knowing we are brighter than most, begin to fall into a trap:

We think we are smarter than we actually are.

We are not yet exceptional. Most importantly, we do not know everything.

Knowledge is power, and we think we have both. We have knowledge, therefore we think we know everything there is to know and are smarter than others. And therefore, we think we have the power of knowing more than those around us.

When confronted with a question, we are confident we can out-reference, out-argue, out-analyze and out-figure our opposition.

But what if we are wrong? What if our confidence is misplaced? What if their solution is better? Or, horror of horrors, we are just plain wrong?

We have perhaps become so impressed with our own knowledge that we lose the great ability to laugh at ourselves, and acknowledge when we are wrong. And that is dangerous.

Looking down our noses limits our ability to relate to a world we are now, because we have attended college, expected to help lead in our various fields. But we cannot lead if we have contempt for those we have to lead.

It’s not an accident that a quote from Socrates was put at the beginning of this piece. Sometimes, as in journalism, there is only one person who can say it best, someone infinitely smarter than you that has already said it.

That’s why we have quotes in journalism, and that’s why we have source citation in the academic papers we write for college.

Often, the best way to show that you are smart is being able to synthesize what others have said better than you, put them together, and form your own well-rounded point.

Side note: our professors don’t know everything either, and they constantly rely on others. Just because they say something doesn’t make it correct.

It’s OK to be wrong. It’s human, it happens to all of us. And it’s even more OK to understand that you are not the expert, that you don’t know all there is to know just because you managed to pass a few classes, or even graduate.

A dose of humility for college students would not be a bad thing.

Start with acknowledging that you do not know everything. You may be surprised at what you learn.