By The Spectator, John Maloney
The school year is winding down. Have you even looked back on your education; elementary school, high school, college perhaps. Maybe you have a Master’s Degree hanging on the wall somewhere! Did you ever stop to think about the tremendous amount of knowledge that you acquired during those school years? All the books you read or were supposed to read, all those erudite reports that your researched. Think of all the facts and the important dates in history that you were able to recall and rattle off at a pace that would shame a computer.
Has it ever annoyed you at times, that years later, that stored in the inner recesses of your brain is a vast amount of knowledge on a variety of subjects which you have never used and probably never will use in your lifetime! Think of that! Untold numbers of hours memorizing names, facts, dates, formulas, poetry and the like and never getting the chance to use them. Not even in an exam. What a shame. What a waste. All those facts seemed so important to some teacher in high school or college years ago.
Tell me when was the last time you had to use: “The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides!” I don’t remember the last time I looked a hypotenuse in the ye even after a couple of drinks.
How do you fit that into a conversation at your local bar or while waiting at the check-out counter at Stop and Shop. While balancing your check book, does it seem relevant that the Zimmerman rate was one of the remote causes of our entry into World War I. And who the hell was Zimmerman anyway? When was the last time you had to recite the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Sam Coleridge. When was the last time you were asked to identify the character in a Shakespeare play who said “Out damn spot!” No, it wasn’t Monica Lewinsky of oval office fame. Why was the battle of Saratoga so important and what American general helped to win it. When was the last time, you had a discussion about the Magna Carta or what was the significance of the date 1066. Speaking of dates what about 1492-1607. 1789-1969?
When stopped by a Trooper on the Palisades Parkway for speeding, is this the time when you might “show off” with the phrase “54-40 or Fight!” Perhaps you might inform the officer that you know something about the Gadsden Purchase or Seward’s Folly. Would it help if you quoted the opening lines of Cicero’s orations agains Cataline in the original Latin!
When was the last time you were asked to name some novel written by Robert Lewis Stevenson. Or quote one line of a poem written by Longfellow. Who were the Crusaders and what did they do. No, they didn’t play for the Holy Cross college basketball team.
What was important about the Cotten Gin. No, it wasn’t a drink! What did Fulton do that made him famous? No, he didn’t establish the Fulton Fish Market. Did your banker even ask you to name the three ships that sailed with Columbus or the name of Henry Hudson’s boat?
How about Lewis and Clarke? No, they weren’t the first fay Americans to get married. What happened at Pikes Peak and who really cares!
How about naming three confederate Generals. No, Busch wasn’t one of them and neither was Lyndon Johnson. Does anyone really care that Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants!
When was the last time you had to find the area of a trapezoid or a square or a circle.
More often than not, you’ve had to find your car in a parking lot. What is “pi” and I don’t mean the movie or novel!
Before a bartender serves you does he ask for some elements from the periodic table. It seems we’re always being questioned about things that don’t know instead of things we know. The IRS will ask us a silly question about something on our tax return but never ask us about the Merchant of Venice, The Alamo or Charles Dickens.
Why can’t someone arrange a huge cocktail party where the only topic of conversation would be “Unused bits of information from our education past.”
I’ll have a Johnnie Walker Red on the rocks, waiter and would you like to discuss Magellan or Marco Polo and did you know about FDR and his NRA program to end the Depression?