In the 1958 film, Auntie Mame, played by Rosalind Russell, one of my favorite stars from that period, declares to the boorish banker, “Mr. Babcock, knowledge is power!” This in defense of her young nephew, Patrick Dennis, who is preparing said banker the perfect martini and states that he has learned to “stir, never shake, bruises the gin…” and that “Auntie Mame says olives take up too much room in such a little glass.” Mr. Babcock considers it inappropriate for little Patrick to have such knowledge. Ahhh, knowledge – who has it, who wants it, who is being denied access to it, who shapes and molds it? It comes in so many shapes, sizes, contours, and forms. Knowledge can be expansive or narrow, hard and set or fluid and malleable. For some it might be how to scale the tallest mountain in the world, while others would be content to “know” how to bake a cake or drive a car with a manual transmission, clutch and all. I almost want to talk about “fake” knowledge – but I think I will leave that for another post… Likewise, don’t get this blog post title confused with the original sin of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a side note, knowledge and truth are not the same and philosophers, pragmatists and other deep thinkers have argued since the beginning of time about the definitions, similarities and differences of these two terms.
Knowledge has always been my nectar of life, my source, my rock. Knowing has been my defense, my offense, the solid foundation upon which I stand with steadfast and utter righteousness. Starting with the letter, “A”, my young mind, thirsting for knowledge, voraciously consumed the encyclopedia set bought one by one with green stamps from the grocery store. I was fascinated by this source of knowledge and what I thought of as the absolute truth. I think I reached approximately the letter “K” before the green stamps ran out. The set was never purchased in its entirety so I was left with a giant hole in my knowledge base that starts with L and ends with Z. So don’t ask me about zebras or xylophones. The sheer vastness of it was overwhelming and exciting and this decades before the Internet was invented by Al Gore. I’ve never stopped wanting to know, know more, seek out knowing, and be knowledgable.
On the flipside, “not knowing” is my kryptonite, my nemesis, the stuff that causes me nightmares and anxiety, throws me off, makes me feel vulnerable and extremely uncomfortable. Faking it is not an option for me… In fact, acknowledging and being very transparent in situations where I find myself in a state of ” not knowing” is also a way of avoiding that sense of dread that I experience. However, I have also come to some self-realization that I am the last one to ever ask for directions (even when I’m lost) or make an inquiry about something that I clearly should know already… In other words, I fear that I build a lot of my self-worth, esteem, sense of self, and pride on knowing.
THE POINT: Knowledge opens doors. As Auntie Mame says to Patrick, “I’m going to open doors for you… doors you never even dreamed existed.” I am an example of how the unrelenting quest for knowledge has afforded me opportunities… opportunities I never even dreamed existed. In many ways, I believe knowing has allowed me to transform my poor, immigrant, non-English speaking youth into a solidly, dare I say, upper middle class professional life. Knowledge is power. And given I have spent my entire professional career in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education space, this is what I hope and want for every young person who walks through those doors, the opportunity to develop an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The love of learning cannot be legislated nor taken away from you by anyone. Once acquired it sustains you for the rest of your life. And it’s a good life.