A few days ago on this site Mr. Hossein Hosseini in his stimulating article seemed to imply that we Iranians have the most know-it-all people! Do we really? I respectfully doubt that.
I used to fault friends, and I lost some because I did not approve of their pretending to be what they were not. That went on until I took some courses in modern psychology and discovered that what I or we consider pretension, is often benign and is a part of our defense mechanism as humans in order to save face in emergencies. In other words, what I discovered was that I should forgive the people as long as their pretension was temporary, for self preservation and if they did not make a habit of doing that and only resorted to it as a stepping stone in their quest for learning and respecting the educators. The flip side of this is to abuse this defense mechanism in our quest for taking advantage of others and claiming what is not ours. I get to this at the end of this article.
In addition to what I stated above, know-it-all trait manifests itself differently in different cultures and even within individuals in each culture. Accepting the fact that our culture in Iran was impacted by the East back in times when there was no such a thing as Western Civilization, deep in our culture we find a greater value to those who know more. So much so that more of our people due to a strong urge to be recognized tend to fake knowledge in order to enjoy more respect from others.
Back in the old days before the advent of modern public education parochial schools in Iran had their way of handling the discipline problem by glorifying the status of teachers and people completely trusted the those schools with the educating their kids. Our Saadi of Shiraz has the account of some kings who encouraged the teachers to punish their kids if necessary to make them gain knowledge. Some of us have gone through those schools and do not condemn the old system especially when we see the failure of public schools to instill as much respect for education in our young. I still maintain that we should not totally abandon or condemn either the old or new systems just because of some weak points that could be eliminated or adjusted to meet the challenges of our time. Lack of such wisdom in America used to be called throwing the baby with the bath water!
Here are some of my observations to show how much our Iranian education system differs from that in America and resembles Eastern cultures and to lesser extent European ones.
In 1960' when I was fresh out of college and heading for Iran to teach I was assisted by a nice German friend in America to enjoy a tour of some major universities from Bremen to Munich. In that tour I sat in several university classes. I watched as each the professor stepped in as a real authority accompanied with his assistant who would help in everything like erasing the board, passing assignments, etc. The most impressive thing was what the students did at the sight of the professor when he stepped into class. The first students who noticed the professor coming in started to tap their pencil on their desk in an impressive ceremonial way and soon there was a chorus pencil hitting the desks followed by absolute quiet.
Another relevant and interesting thing was that if the students had questions they would not ask the professor, lest embarrass him if he did not know the answer. They had to give the questions to the assistant who would in turn find the answer either alone or with the help of the professor. This system would enhance and maintain the professor's godly status, save time and perhaps stimulated learning. I cherish those observations and like to be updated about the changes for better or worse.
It was also a stark difference from where I went to college in California where I recall students putting their legs up on their desks. I particularly recall one professor noisily passing gas(gooz) while erasing the board and turning to the students and saying, sorry, my honey put too much beans in our food! I do not get into more analysis of Western and Eastern methods.
I only conclude that most people have the sense of getting in and out of know-it-all state in life with negligible adverse effect on the society. It is an evolutionary process in process in quest for education.
What we have to channel our energy to, is to do to all we can to reduce the negative impacts of mega and giga know-it-all politicians whose collective unity has given rise to not a benign, but runaway hypocrisy that is adversely affecting all aspects of our lives and bankrupting our world and our future generations. We have to do all we can to promote effective education which is the only antidote to ignorance. Above all we have to remember that the only axis of evil is unchecked ignorance, arrogance and greed, with not geographic boundaries.
If we launch an effective public education today we may, in a generation's time, if we survive that long, discover that the most effective way in which we could save ourselves would have been War on Ignorance rather than War on Terror or by any other name. Unfortunately I do not see any serious step in that direction until the people in the government of the people are in charge of their destiny with the government as servant of the people and not the other way around.
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