The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published Nov. 2, 1997.)

Considering how highly we prize an education, it's strange that we take so much satisfaction in our ignorance.

We're always proudly proclaiming that we know nothing about something. In our proclamation, there is the faint, far-away intimation of great knowledge ability in other areas. We plead ignorance about one subject as if we knew a lot about almost everything else.

When the seventh game of the World Series ended after midnight last Sunday (Monday, really), I'd been in bed for an hour and awakened in the morning without knowing who won. As someone who's not an ardent baseball fan, I found myself saying proudly to anyone who'd listen, "I don't even know who won."

Does not knowing who won make me special? I do the same thing with movies.

Because we hardly ever see the movie everyone's talking about, I never pass up the opportunity to say I haven't seen it. Why is not having seen a popular movie such a point of pride with me? What it really is, is dumb. I probably would have liked it.

It may be that we're becoming a nation of specialists. We know a lot about one thing and not much at all about anything else, and we're proud of it. I don't mind people not knowing something, but I object when they're proud of their blank spots.

"I'm terrible with numbers," almost everyone boasts. At income tax time, many of us repeat over and over how bad we are with figures. It would be smarter if we spent more time getting better with numbers and less time bragging about our stupidity.

"I'm not good with computers."

"I can never remember a name," we're always saying, as if being rude by not making a point of remembering, made us interesting.

I suppose there's a case to be made for ignorance and for someone knowing he or she is ignorant. If someone is genuinely humble in recognizing that there are things he doesn't know, that person is more apt to make an effort to correct his deficiency.

The trouble is, most often when someone claims to be ignorant of some subject, it isn't honesty or modesty; it's fake humility.

There's a whole class of people who love not knowing anything about television. It's a cult. When these people learn that I'm on a program called "60 Minutes," they go out of their way to tell me, "We don't watch television" or "We don't even have a television set." Well, aren't you special.

It is almost as if they think not watching television makes them intellectually superior to the rest of us. I have no objection to people who don't watch television, but I do have an objection to people who pride themselves on it and talk about it all the time. It's easy to say there's a lot of junk on television, because it's true, but there's also a lot of very good stuff on television and any American who doesn't watch some of it is stupid, even though he credits himself with being smart and above the crowd.

Teenagers are apt to say, "I've got a lot of good ideas, but I'm not too good at expressing myself. You know what I mean?" They're suggesting they have some cosmic thought they're unable to put into words. It's usually my opinion that if people can't write down an idea or articulate it in simple English, the chances are it isn't that they can't express themselves, it's that they don't have an idea to express.

I don't think I said that very well, but you know... you know what I mean?

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