Inequality has dogged humanity throughout the ages, and knowledge privilege has maintained its stranglehold throughout history. Knowledge is an important ingredient for ‘real-world’ application of skills, and knowledge is attained through a process of learning. Knowledge acquisition and knowledge exposure, or the lack of, give rise to many (if not all) other inequalities. In fact, if you REALLY think about it, knowledge acquisition and exposure are the hallmarks of privilege.
But how implicit are we all, in perpetuating this inequality? And are we doing enough to tear down these barriers?
The examples of knowledge injustice numerous, but here are a couple that persist today.
Example 1: The stock market
There are plenty of firms who are willing to navigate the stock market for individuals; it is incorrect to say that only a handful of people are able to trade. These companies are legitimate and regulated and do help people invest their savings to turn a profit. And yet, the reason that these companies exist, is because knowledge of the stock market is something they have, and their customers do not. In fact, some commentators suggest that the sector thrives purely because of the jargon that is associated with buying stock, and NOT because the fundamentals are difficult to grasp.
The issue is not with what these firms do, it’s the fact that there is a need for them in the first place. Whilst there are basics to understand before leaping in with a trade, the details are not that difficult to grasp – which is to say, the information could (should?) be readily available to EVERYONE. Regardless of whether you see money as the root of all evil, or as an essential tool to build good in the world, there is little argument that those in financial poverty tend to suffer most.
The counterargument goes something like “everybody can access this information…”, but this fails to consider the influence social constructs have upon knowledge acquisition and exposure. Simply put, if those closest to you (family, friends, immediate community) have never invested, you are unlikely to think that you would a) invest, b) consider it easy to do, c) know where to get the information from. Whereas the privileged are more likely to have been exposed to the idea of stocks and shares and are therefore more likely to trade. I am very lucky – I have an exceptional coach who guides me through it all, and yet this is about being more efficient, not actually about being able to do it successfully. The critical point here, is that without my mentor and his insights, I would have never known that trading is a world I can get involved in easily.
Example 2: Exercise & movement
This is a fantastic example of how privileged YOU are. I would wager that, for a high-90% of those who are reading this, exercise is something which you know is good for you. Maybe not the full breadth or depth of its benefits, but you could at least point to two or three example benefits, and why it is good for you (lets brush over that a lot of people do nothing with this knowledge!). When I coach my guys, exercise is a BIG part of the TimeMaster series, because of its fantastic benefits to productivity, and whilst the application and integration of exercise is often highlighted as being extremely helpful, none of them are shocked that exercise has benefits! And because WE know exercise is good, there is a danger within our assumptions that EVERYONE knows it is good. Scores of literature point to ill health being scarily predicted by level of education; although we have to be careful not to draw too many inferences from this set of data, we can see that education has a key role in public health.
Such a (seemingly) simple piece of knowledge, be active frequently, is reserved for the privileged. This feels like a basic human right – empower people to be healthier, through sharing knowledge. But it doesn’t exist – yes, rich countries are trying to tackle this through public health campaigns, with varying success, yet what is happening to the millions, if not BILLIONS, of those who don’t even have that impetus? Much like the stock market example, if a someone, or a group of someone’s, do not associate themselves with exercise aware people, how can we expect them (or their children) to suddenly understand it?
Perhaps you disagree…. that knowledge and learning are not as integral to our existence as I lay claim. I would point to the unparalleled success of the internet, of the printing press, and of the continued desire to hear stories – the passing on of information has ALWAYS been integral to society.
So, you may be thinking a radical overhaul of capitalism is needed, or that this is a call to arms to tear down the establishment and build a fairer society from the ashes? Not so. I believe there is a way we can harness the power of knowledge, whilst doing away with the privilege associated with knowhow and application. And I also believe that we all have a part to play – we can harness our own knowledge and look to give it back to our communities.
At Breeze Academy, we are looking to appeal to those professionals who recognise the importance that education can play within our societies, and that through sharing knowledge, we can build fairer, more cohesive communities. We want to work with professionals who share this vision, even if they are not clear on how they could help. As an individual, do you have knowledge and knowhow, that could directly impact upon your community? Perhaps you have specialist knowledge that would greatly enhance other professionals, and so in turn provide a better service to their clients (i.e., society!)? Or maybe, the organisation you work for is keen to invest in their staff, and can see the huge benefits education can provide?
If you have read this far, it will have struck a chord with you. And I would love to help – taking expertise, and helping the expert translate their knowledge into something that is readily digestible, is an extremely rewarding part of my work. Get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org, and lets build knowledge acquisition for ALL.