“A little learning is a dangerous thing”, actually means that ‘superficial knowledge is worse than ignorance’. A person with little or no learning is very often seen to be vain, as he tries to show that he knows more than he does. He attempt is to pass for a scholar in polite society. The central meaning of this famous proverb is that it is only a man of poor knowledge who boasts of his learning and its result is harmful. No knowledge, whether great or small, is bad. A man with little education is much better that an illiterate person. It is not the little knowledge but the pride (vanity or egoism) of learning that poses danger to a person. If a person is humble enough to accept the fact that he knows little, then such learning is of much benefit for him and for the society. Such person who seek advice of learned people, are not dangerous people. It is said of Newton that shortly before his death he remarked that he was like a child gathering pebbles on the sea-shore, while the vast ocean of truth lay unexplored before him. And this is from the mouth of one of the greatest scientists of all times. But it is just like what a really learned man feels. In fact, the more his knowledge increases, the more does he feel how little this knowledge is in comparison with what remains to be known. Only a man of little learning boasts of his knowledge. The harm that this does is incalculable. We all know what great harm a quack does to his patient. His treatment generally results in making the case worse if not in death. A half-trained electrician or mechanic may cause great damage to the machines he handles and may even lose his own life. Naturally their knowledge is limited, but they think that they know enough. Thus the effect of inadequate knowledge is disastrous. It must be noted that a little learning is not harmful in itself, but if it seeks to pass off for great learning, it deceives and misleads the world. It is this pretension that turns a person with a little learning into a quack, who is always a danger to society.
Of course, learning, though very little, is better than no learning at all. Learning, whether great or little, is always a beneficial thing. The pride of learning, however, is a very dangerous thing.