IGNORANCE VS. STUPIDITY: THE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS OF ACCURATE LABELS
Definitions: (Sources are Dictionary.com, Merriam-Webster.com and Wikipedia.org)
IGNORANT: ig·no·rant [ig-ner-uhnt] –adjective | Lacking in knowledge or training; unlearned: an ignorant man. 2. Lacking information or comprehension as to a particular subject or fact: 3. uninformed; unaware.
IGNORANCE: ig·no·rance [ig-ner-uhns] –noun | The state of being ignorant; being uninformed; lack of knowledge, learning, education, or information, etc.
STUPID: stu·pid [stoo-pid] –adjective, -er, -est, –noun | Lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit, or sense; lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; slow of mind
STUPIDITY: stu·pid·i·ty [stoo-pid-i-tee] –noun | The state, quality, or fact of being stupid
These definitions explain that ignorance is "not knowing," and that stupidity is the "inability to know or comprehend." This is an important distinction since these words are often misused and therefore politically incorrect.
Let’s look at some situations, correctly label the person as "ignorant" or "stupid," and explain why the label is accurate.
An individual has a preconceived idea that the world is flat. There is relevant evidence to the contrary, but the individual is neither aware that such evidence exists nor has discovered the evidence on their own.
· The individual in this situation is ignorant because they do not know, and have not been presented the scientific evidence or even the idea that such evidence exists. The individual is irrational for believing the world to be flat without evidence; that irrationality alone does not make the individual "stupid."
The individual above (Situation 1) has now been presented with knowledge that should lead to an accurate world view (evidence that the world is spherical), but the individual makes the conscious decision to reject this knowledge/evidence. Therefore, fallacious preconceived ideas remain believed.
· This individual is stupid; having demonstrated a lack of reasoning capability, making an unintelligent decision to disregard evidence that proves their world view is erroneous.
An individual comes into contact with the person from situation 1, notices that the person's world view is incorrect and offers pertinent information that can lead the person to adopt an accurate world view. However, this information is rejected without thought; the situation 1 person now is "stupid." Situation 3 individual informs the person in situation 1 and 2 of their initial ignorance, and that they are currently in a state of "stupidity." Situation 3 individual explains why.
· Situation 3 individual not ignorant or stupid for pointing out the ignorance and stupidity of the other individual. The only question that needs to be asked now is: was the Situation 3 individual politically incorrect in labeling the Situation. 1/2 individual as stupid?
The Political Correctness of Labeling Stupid and/or Ignorant Persons
The previous discussion was based on actual definitions. This section will be largely opinion, with facts offered throughout when needed.
Was it politically correct (PC) for the individual in situation 3 to label the other individual as stupid? To honestly answer this question one needs to understand the definitions and uses of PC.
· According to Merriam-Webster PC is "conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated;"
· Wikipedia’s description is: "language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, religious belief, disability, and age-related contexts, and doing so to an excessive extent."
Stupidity and ignorance are NOT the same as the mentally challenged which describes a natural mental impairment. Since stupidity can be precisely identified based on real definitions, its political correctness must be judged on individual circumstances. It is not PC to label someone with a natural impairment as being stupid or ignorant. However, if the person in question doesn't have a natural impairment and otherwise fits the definition of stupid or ignorant, then the applicable should be applied (unless the word in question has been labeled as politically incorrect by the society or culture in which it is being used).
Have the words stupid or ignorant been labeled by our society/culture as politically incorrect when referencing a truly stupid or ignorant person? No. They become politically incorrect only when referencing a naturally impaired individual. Granted, there has been an attempt by a few to make this usage politically incorrect, but that attempt has largely failed because it is not warranted. There are some people who will use intellectually challenged to describe a stupid person, but based on the differences between intellect and intelligence that doesn't really make sense.
If someone indicates their ignorance or stupidity through their actions, decisions, comments, etc. then that person needs to be told what they have done so that they may have the opportunity to correct it. Ignorance and stupidity can be dangerous aspects of a person's life. It can cause them to hurt themselves or others. So, stupid people should be labeled as such, and they should be given the opportunity to correct.
Does labeling a truly stupid/ignorant person equate to name calling?
No. Name calling would be calling someone stupid or ignorant regardless of whether they've actually done/said something stupid or ignorant, e.g., if situation 3 individual calls situation 1 individual stupid despite that individual only fitting the definition of ignorant, and without first attempting to set that individual on the path to an accurate worldview. Name calling is calling a gay man a faggot or an Italian person a wop. Those are also true examples of political incorrectness, and the intelligent mind will be able to discern the differences between these examples and the situations defined above.
· Ignorance and stupidity are not synonymous. Ignorance is not knowing and stupidity is rejecting knowledge.
· Telling a truly stupid/ignorant person that they are stupid or ignorant is not politically incorrect given that it does not aim to offend a political sensibility.
· Telling a truly stupid/ignorant person that they are stupid or ignorant is not name calling.
“The most violent element in society is ignorance.” ~Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
Copyright ©2011 Lauen Rose All rights reserved.