There have been so many posts that have circulated over the months and years regarding the experience of Working With The Public as a science/nature educator and the “dumb” things The Public asks or believes about nature and animals and plants

The general vibe is often “look how stupid people are,” in a similar vein as posts about customer service and the “dumb” things customers demand.

This must stop. Many people don’t know the most basic things about nature—this is not a personal failing to be mocked online, this is a symptom of a huge problem with our world.

All of those people once were children, curious and driven to incessantly ask Why and What and How and What If.

What happened?

If an adult says to you, “Wait…aren’t dolphins fish?” and you make them feel like an idiot for thinking that, you’re teaching them not to ask questions and not to learn

Humans don’t learn because of fear of shame and punishment, they learn because of curiosity and wonder

Our most critical periods for learning are the same periods where we have yet to develop a sense of shame associated with not knowing something

Most adults’ curiosity is very battered and damaged and it’s important to be kind to that delicate and essential instinct

When I encounter this, my thought isn’t that the person is stupid, but that someone else failed them, usually school. People that are otherwise well educated don’t know that narwhals are real, or that wasps and mosquitos are important to the function of the ecosystem.

Even with that perspective though, the correct response is still to give the requested information, not pity.