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Ignorance and Wrong doing

Updated on June 25, 2015

Ignorance and Wrongdoing

Tina Hancock

8 March, 2012

Ignorance and Wrongdoing

The preconceived notion that ignorance and lack of education lead to people having a history of doing things that are considered wrong by many standards and ideas, remains a highly debatable argument in society.

Often times one can hear the widely used slogan “ignorance is no excuse of the law.” But one has to ponder, just how sustainable can that notion be? Stepping on the grass despite the fact that there is a “Please do no step on the grass” sign is a blatant disregard for authority. However, with no sign in place, could stepping on the grass be an illegal act? Staying off the grass when no sign is present is merely an act of courtesy.

People, who were raised in poorer geographical locations or lower socioeconomic statuses, seem to place less importance in education. Lack of financial means also places a lower regard for education in many of these situations. Educational opportunities are not as easily obtainable as in other geographical areas. People tend to develop the frame of mind that there is no reason for them to pursue education, as it is not stressed in great importance in the areas they live .

Many pop culture movies play out thought provoking dramas showing how families or persons, ignorant about a given notion or idea, act out in ways that are considered wrong by most. The movie American History X, is a prime, yet tragic, example of how ignorance can lead to a life of wrongdoing (Kaye, 1998). A movie that depicts a tragic hate crime that leads to the death of a young man. After being convicted and sentenced to prison, Vinyard eventually begins to contemplate and realize the impact that his way of thinking has had on his life. After getting out of prison, the “reformed” racist tries to teach his younger brother Danny to let go of the anger and hate. The movies is narrated by the younger brother Danny and shows insight into the family life as younger boys and how they developed their hatred for blacks from their father. Sadly, Derek’s efforts to change young Danny’s mind was too little too late. Danny was gunned down in brutal hate crime retaliation in the bathroom of his high school. Using the term ignorance for such acts, can be trivial. It is perceived common to man that committing such acts are wrong, no matter what you are taught at a young age. Can the factor of ignorance, as well as the will to what is known as wrong, come into play?

One other piece of cinema depicting a family, who know right from wrong but lack will to do what is right, is called The Wild and Wonderful Whites (Nitzberg, 2009). A film based on a true story that goes beyond high dollar cinema theatrics; this picture is an actual documentary of one reporter who spends an entire year depicting the life of a West Virginia family, the Whites. The production crew spent time documenting the lifestyle and behaviors of a family of Boone County outlaws. By definition of the family members, the father of the family D. Ray White was a coal miner who determined that the “system” was cheating the working man, and decided that he would live his life by taking advantage of the system; and idea that erupted into a family of outlaws. In the film, the law enforcement officers make reference to the family’s not having much intelligence added to their outlaw lifestyle. The family has their own website now, based on the film and when describing the family, the website states the Whites are a family of modern day outlaws. Pioneered by D. Ray who invented his own form of mountain dance and living on the wrong side of the law; the family members still carry on the traditions set forth by D. Ray. ( However, there is the argument, is it a lack of intelligence that leads this family to act in such a way, or the will to not do what is right? Certainly there can be a valid argument that higher educated people are capable of committing acts of crime as well; the news is often laced with “white collar crime” stories. But I challenge that if you go into the prisons and jails across the country, you will find sadly a high majority of these incarcerated people have less than a high school diploma. Certainly, being uneducated is not a free pass to commit crime and be exempt from the laws. The consensus is, however, that people of lesser intelligence live by one of two major codes. They commit acts of crime out of blatant disregard for authority; they may know right from wrong, they simply don’t care. Or they act out in survival mode; they know right from wrong, but they are desperate to do whatever they have to do to get what they need or take care of themselves. Then, there is the ones who simply don’t know any better because they have never been taught different.

In an article published in The Harvard Review of Philosophy (Engstrom), Kant defines theoretical knowledge “as the actuality of the knowledge depends on the actuality of its object” a more hypothetical based knowledge, it assumes that both the knowledge and the theory it depends upon are accepted. Practical knowledge as the actuality of the object depends on the actuality ofthe knowledge.” Practical knowledge is equated to what is referred to as common sense.

Works Cited

Engstrom,Stephen. Kant's Distinction BetweenTheoretical and Practical Knowledge.The Harvard Review of Philosophy. (pg. 49-63). (2002) (Website).10 March, 2012.

Kaye, Tony (Director). (1998). American History X [motion picture]. United States. New Line Cinema.

Nitzberg, Julien (Director). (2009). The Wild and Wonderful Whites [motion picture]. United States. Tribeca Films. Website. 10 March, 2012.


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