You don’t know what you don’t know. YDKWYDK. Bill Maher recently poked fun at a new documentary film about Donald Rumsfeld titled “The Unknown Knowns.” Rumsfeld used the confusing explanation, “There are known knowns. These are the things we know. There are known unknowns. These are the things we know we don’t know. Then, there are the unknown unknowns. These are the things we don’t know that we don’t know.” In the film, the circumlocution reveals the absence of clear reasoning in the justification for foreign policy during the presidency of George W. Bush. However, this epistemological problem does provide a crucial educational lesson.
So much of daily work is the communication of what has already been discovered. The content orientation of most fields leads to statements that favor memorization and repetition in the classroom. Appeals to simplicity and reductionism have governed intellectual accomplishment for at least two hundred years. Complexity and nuance earned the scorn and rejection of experts across the private sector and the global academy. Movements in the arts and literature like post-modernism and deconstructionism have opened the door for a fundamental reassessment. Suppose the processes of learning became the emphasis, and detailed expertise across all fields served as the medium and context.