About 10 months ago I decided that come this November I would vote in the general election. I had a mission because I knew that I was lost when it came to politics. The stories and information during political segments of the news seemed to go in one ear and out the other. I had a knowledge gap, a void that I wanted to catch in its tracks. I needed to educate myself in order to enable a full consumption of the information that the news provides. I would learn, build my own views, make my own judgements, declare a party and a stance, and then I would vote. What I got was not only a strong understanding of politics but a 10-month-long, continuous eye-opener.
I've always had a passion for news, both its purpose and its importance. My passion and enthusiasm to stay well informed coincide with my curiosity to learn more about the world. I'm intrigued by self-education, and watching the news encourages exploration into new topics. It's all too common for a topic, person, place, company or idea that I've never heard of to make a headline. Although a topic may be unknown to me, the news publications jump directly into their broadcasts putting me in the vulnerable position of becoming lost. It is up to me, the consumer, to put the news stories into context, to take the facts and form my own analyses. Following CNN's Anderson Cooper and his AC360 model, we should go "beyond the headlines to [learn] stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news."
When I realized political discussions and Republican primary debates had no context, I made it my goal to become as proficient as possible rather than remain politically uninformed. So I started from scratch thinking it was going to be short and simple; I figured I would learn the basic terminology and the content would fall into place. I had an endpoint, a goal, and I started to research.
What came as more of a shock to me than the political terminology that I didn't know, was the infinite tangents I would need to take to reach my goal. Basic terminology turned into reading history, legislation, key figures, major roles and positions. The endless search to become aware turned into a tremendous realization: I don't know what I don't know. I can create a list of things that I know nothing about, and although this list would be vast, the list of things that I don't even know exist, could I create it, would far exceed it.
As I explored politics I knew I had to learn the party structure, the political figures and the lingo. In the process of learning these, there were 10-fold requisite topics that needed to be learned in order to continue. Like an infinite Russian nested doll where the outermost doll is the knowledge you know and as soon as you start digging into that topic, you realize it's layered with new topics that can open doors, spark curiosity and create opportunity. I had the freedom to explore topics and take any path that presented itself.
For a while I thought my education was at the chokehold of a curriculum set by teachers and professors. I trusted that the best education was that established by a noble faculty and that they had my best interest at heart. As I analyzed my own education and looked at my own ability to converse, make a footprint and make a difference, I realized that the chokehold of my education is that of my own hand. There's a great deal more to learn than what is set by teachers that need to adopt a syllabus tailored for thousands. It is my personal responsibility to create a unique and individual curriculum with my own interest at heart. What better time to take advantage of that realization than in the information age when within seconds you can unearth the silent genocide of thousands, click from the Roman Empire to Joseph Kony, or from a documentary on John Gotti to the third episode of The Sopranos?
Historically, innovation is the product of curiosity and knowledge intersecting; when our interest to break through the status quo meets our capabilities, invention and innovation are possible. As our curiosity to learn more is aided by today's unprecedented access to resources, we should allow our comfort zones to expand by exploring all of our interests. We can start to not only acknowledge our ignorance but build the list of the once unknown -- the things that we don't know that we don't know -- and begin teaching ourselves our own curriculum.