Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A boot to the Education

Today, I celebrate my ignorance. Yes, I work in education, and yes, I think that I think that education is important, but there is so much stuff that I don't know and yet I get along just fine. Before you say anything (anything at all), I know that Paul Reiser discussed the issue of not knowing things in 1986. But he seemed troubled by it. I refuse to be.

A student asked me today, "What's the difference between a primary and a caucus?" I told him I had no idea but that in the real world, it isn't really an issue. Most of politics is the same with me. Unless Marvel is planning on making a movie about them, I intend to ignore Super Delegates. And math? Yes, it is nice to know basic algebra because I often have to solve for X, or some other letter, but pre-calc? For that, if it ever comes up, I'll use a pre-calculator. I'm joking of course -- it will never come up.

Does anyone not currently in the field of not having any friends really consider it important to balance redox equations? Spoiler alert: redox has nothing to do with the color red or oxen (or cookies!) so who cares? If I drop a brick, does it not fall? When do people worry about how fast it will fall? Are my mitochondria any less mighty if I have no idea what they do? (This one, though, I remember...they are the powerhouse of the cell. I never understood what that meant, but that's the phrase.)

Surely someone could say the same for English -- does anyone really need to know what motivated Holden Caufield? Does anybody really care? No. The truth is that English teachers think it is nice if you recall the plot and such of a book you read 10 years ago but the goal is in the skill at being able to approach any OTHER text. But does learning about co-secants (who apparently share top billing with other co-secants) equip me with the skills to confront any whatever it is that co-secants do or are? I really have no idea.

This is not to say that I don't know stuff. I know a ridiculous amount of stuff. More properly, I know an amount of ridiculous stuff. I know trivia and a collection of random facts and bits about many different fields of learning. I can contribute fascinating (and sometimes true) minutiae about disciplines ranging from Astronomy to Zoology with special stops at Theology and Cynology, and the occasional Nephology. These are what have gotten me through the social situations that confront me. These are what have shaped my success, not knowing who participated in the Hundred Years War [hint, not the Hundred-yearsians. I know, right?]

We should replace our entire curriculum with Trivial Pursuit competitions, almanacs and reference books. We have to push the kinds of things people need to know, like why some pencils are number 2 and others aren't. Because that comes up all the time. Celebrate the ignorance by realizing that knowing how to drive does not require understanding how the engine works.

So the next time you are kicking yourself because you suddenly need to compute a factorial before you put that quarter in the meter realize that that never happened. Factorials are stupid.

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