“Passing knowledge” is knowledge that’s good enough to pass, but not good enough to help. It’s knowledge that reflects more on effort than on ability; if you put in more effort, you might exceed having just a passing knowledge on a subject. But when it comes to a person’s ability, their skills, it’s different. Ability sets us apart, in some ways, but effort is the difference between a skill ceiling and a skill floor. What happens when you don’t have any effort, though? What happens when your motivation falls through, and there’s nothing left to push you forward?
I have a passing knowledge of a few subjects: carpentry, contracting, and the works; Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake; sitting and looking occupied while not being occupied at all; and exemplar pet training, petting, and grooming. Alex credits me sometimes for knowing the perfect spot to pet a dog to get them to like me, even though it’s the same spot every time (right behind and under the ear, bonus points for both ears simultaneously.) I don’t have an expert’s knowledge of any of these subjects, but I know enough to get by. That’s passing knowledge.
It’s easy to think thoughtlessly about certain subjects: math, science, quantitative literacy. It’s easy because, after a period of time, you give up on trying. You doubt yourself so much that there’s nothing left but doubt.
I worry, sometimes, that I only have a passing knowledge of subjects I should be an expert in: teaching and English. It’s a constant worry that bothers me when I fail in something, that I secretly am not as good as I need to be. I know I have sufficient knowledge, but there’s always a part of me that doubts myself, exacerbating the issue.