Saturday, November 22, 2003

Unsourced Factoids

The other night, my wife and I went to an open house at a local private school, on the theory that we might (or might not) have our 4-year-old son go to kindergarten a couple of days a week next year. One of the kindergarten teachers made a comment during her speech that caused me some puzzlement. I paraphrase from memory: "Kids learn so much these days. Did you know that today a schoolchild learns more between the freshman and senior years of high school than our grandparents learned in their entire lives?" She said this as if she had read it in some authoritative source.

I wanted to raise my hand and say something like this:
That can't possibly be true. For one thing, there is no meaningful way to measure the total sum of the knowledge that our grandparents learned in their entire lives. And just think about it: Do you really think that our grandparents learned less about the world in 70 or 80 years than today's high-schooler does in 4? Have you met any current high-schoolers? Do they really seem more knowledgable than their grandparents about anything beyond computers and cell phones and Eminem?

OK, sure, maybe they know more -- for the moment -- about the particular subjects that they have recently studied. But our grandparents know (or knew) much more about many other things. I know more about law and economics and philosophy than my grandfather did. But he knew what it was like to grow up during the Depression. He knew what it was like to serve in the Navy. He knew how to run a modest-sized farm -- how to raise chickens and goats and cows and horses, how to plant and harvest corn and grapes and other crops, how to repair his tractor, how to build a barn, etc. He knew how to help deliver a neighbor's child -- which he literally did on one occasion. Later, he had a small butcher shop/grocery, which required him to know how to slaughter livestock, cut meat, and run a small business. In many, many areas of life, he knew more than I'll ever know. So where do you get off slandering our grandparents like that?
Anyway, that's what I wanted to say. But I bit my tongue.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home