‘The Courage To Say “I Don’t Know”‘


October 22nd, 2012 by 

In a segment on WBUR’s Radio Boston, Leah Hager Cohen, W.H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary American Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, discussed a piece she had written for the radio station’s Cognoscenti blog about the value of admitting what we do not know.

Reflecting on her experience as a professor, Cohen admitted that it is sometimes easier to fake knowledge of a subject in order to avoid seeming ignorant. “It’s so habitual,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think in our culture it’s just become ingrained to save face.”

Reacting to recent news, such as the Harvard cheating incident, Cohen explained that in order to uphold academic integrity in her classroom, she hopes “to create a collaborative environment [where] we’re all asking questions together.”

“With my own students, I see what’s a fear of messing up,” Cohen continued, talking about why people have a hard time asking for help. “They are afraid of exposing themselves as not in the know and therefore not belonging in the environment that they’re in.”

To combat such tension, Cohen recommended that we readily admit we do not know everything so that we may allow our fears to dissipate.

This ‘Holy Cross in the News’ Item by David Cotrone ’13.

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