“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”

by Oct 12, 2016

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”


This quote has been a tagline/signature of mine for over 10 years and is something I thought was original until I saw a reference to it and did some research. It seems from Quote Investigator that Robert Orben is the likely first user of the quote in this precise form, although you can see from the QI link that the idea is not, and could not, be new.

Ignorance has a blunt and often negative connotation as a synonym of stupid, when its proper definition is simply lack of knowledge or information. (In light of the state of affairs with the presidential election in the USA, ignorance has revealed itself in a lot of people, but I would argue that the label “stupid” is for people who don’t want to learn i.e. wilful ignorance)

Wisdom includes knowing you are ignorant and seeking to change that state.

Our learning is naturally related to our immediate needs. As children we were busy with the structured curriculum and examinations designed to help us find gainful employment; too ready to embrace play outside of those strict confines to seek a wider knowledge. By the time we reached university our focus was on career and our reading and knowledge appropriately confined to those areas of necessity to excel. We then entered the workplace and, naturally, our learning is directly related to our needs.

We are ignorant of almost everything there is in the world outside of our immediate needs as there is simply too much information and most of it irrelevant; valuable to others, but not to us.

Information is neutral unless we give it meaning and value.


Do you know everything you need about your company’s products, services, systems? Your competitors? What about emerging technologies and other disruptive influences to your market? Are you up to speed on management techniques. Do you know your market value? etc. Ignorance in business can be very costly.


Do you know the voting record of my potential representatives? Qualifications? Where they align with your deeply held principles and virtues? (Contrary to many people’s feelings, your vote can make a difference. It just needs to be informed.) Ignorance in politics can be very costly.


Have you read the very latest research on child psychology and cognitive behaviour and how this related to raising and educating children? Are you aware of the symptoms to common but dangerous illnesses? Ignorance in child rearing can be very, very, costly.

Health and Fitness:

Science offers the best advice from research, but the quality of data and new techniques reveal new information and, as a consequence, the advice can change. Am I aware of the latest scientific advice? Ignorance in health and fitness can be very costly.


Ignorance: How to think


We kid ourselves if we believe we can’t easily be fooled in many, many, ways. There’s a wealth of cognitive, neurological, and psychological research that shows how we can be fooled and make really bad choices. Ignorance in how to think clearly and critically is costly.

We need to learn how our brains work, how best to use them, and how to take care of them and make better decisions. This alone is where we should begin to unravel our ignorance; without clear thinking in this age of information overload, we are in danger of being unable to filter and find the most important, credible, and relevant information we need in so many aspects of our lives.

Nature gave us powerful brains but didn’t provide us with a user manual. Consequently, far too many people fail to use their brains optimally, often with catastrophic consequences.

— Julien Musolino, associate professor of psychology and cognitive science, Rutgers University

Our time is precious and expensive. We should invest in better education for ourselves. Ignorance of how to think clearly and critically could lead us to a head full of poor quality information and result in even poorer decisions.

I like this adjustment of the opening quote:

“If you think investing in education is expensive, consider the cost of not investing.”

Michael A. Gerber

Invest in your own education, beginning with how to think; something you may not have been taught well at school. It’s part of personal and professional development that all successful people strive for.

Where to begin? I liked this book by Guy P. Harrison, but a quick question or two on Quora gave some starters. Ask people in your own network who you admire – now’s the time to send them a message and ask them what books they recommend on the subject!

Open the subject at work and recommend a reading club to discuss this topic and encourage debate and reflection! You may change the environment of the team you work for, the company, maybe even the world!