Rethinking The Hierarchy of Knowledge

I’ll start with a brief story…

A couple weeks back, I was struggling to grasp a concept that I was studying, the way we probably all have at some point in time. This was all taking place in a pretty public space, one with a significant amount of foot traffic. Out of nowhere, I turn around to see a young boy (who I later discovered was 14), talking to his friends about the concept that I was tackling at that moment. Unwarranted, and completely unexpectedly, this boy began to tell me what I was failing to comprehend. As he spoke, I discounted what he was saying, because well, he was a mere middle-schooler…

Turns out, he was right.

The reason that I am just now writing this story, weeks later, is because I have been busy breaking down the situation, and quite honestly, I have been embarrassed by it all. Recently however, I have realized something very important from the ordeal… Knowledge does not discriminate. Knowledge is not a science, and it is not contained inside of societal bounds set by mankind. Knowledge is never complete, and more importantly on that note, no person is complete in any situation. Take the one I just described to you as an example. I did not listen to the young boy because my ego and pride told me that due to my age, and overall life experience, I was smarter, and therefore nothing he said would be of greater value than that of the thoughts that were my own.

This event led to one overwhelming, reinforcing thought in my head… As humans, we do not have all the answers, ever. This is in no way bad, it is actually quite good. Our species is built on the dependence on others. Just think, when we are born, we require matured beings to show us the way to do many different things. We cannot eat without the help of a mother or father, nor can we walk without first being given a reason to move towards something. Knowing that we need others to survive, why would we ever be afraid of the fact that someone else is always going to know more about something than us? It is quite literally human nature.

With all this in mind, it is time we rethink what I am calling the “Hierarchy of Knowledge”. Currently, we equate age and education with rising knowledge-status, which makes total sense. This is also not wrong. Earning a degree, or experiencing something like 50 years of life certainly gives you more gross knowledge, but this does not mean that you are always right over a person with less education on paper, or less years of overall life. Once we accept this, terminology like “teacher” and “student” become fluid. While the credentialed teacher generally assumes the role of adding knowledge to the deemed student’s life, the student often provides just as much teaching to the teacher. This is not a jab at authority, or a power struggle, it is just the way life is supposed to be. This can be translated into so many situations, ultimately shining into the world of leadership. In order to be leader, you must know how to take-on, and respect the responsibilities and challenges of a follower. So next time that middle- schooler teaches you a concept, or that younger individual shares their thoughts with you, don’t do what I did. Listen to them, take their thoughts and ideas with the same merit as you would your own, and lets transform the existing intense hierarchy of knowledge.