“Random” information not always useless

Paul Goebel

After reading a recent editorial in the Review about the quiz show “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader,” I put down my geography book and started thinking;mmmm? Our esteemed editors made some interesting observations, some that I agree with, some that I don’t.

If you didn’t see this column, I’ll fill you in. Apparently, after seeing the show, our illustrious editorial staff tried the online version of the game, and obviously got skunked! This led to casting doubt on the idea that the show’s wunderkind were average, and also, who really needs to know any of this stuff? The opinion writers then questioned why anyone but an anthropology major should know who the Inca were, and where they lived;hey, wait a minute, I’m an anthro major!

Ultimately, our brave leaders felt the show begged the question – how does this relate to the education system in our country, both K-12 and post-secondary? We are assured by the staff that much of the facts we learn are useless unless you’re on “Jeopardy,” or that none of this stuff applies to real life. I think they missed the point; not of the show, but of this type of learning.

I will agree the U.S. education system is far from perfect, especially in light of “No Child Left Behind” and some of the other problems and scandals that have arisen in the past decade. When we read that many high school graduates can barely read and write and the average college freshman can’t find Iraq on the world map, we should be discouraged, and maybe look into why this is so.

The issue about knowing of the Inca, and other historical and cultural facts is important as part of basic grade school, and even liberal arts college education. That empire played a key role in the history of South America and the new world and more importantly left an important legacy of why such knowledge and beauty shouldn’t be destroyed by greedy conquerors from a different culture. In this time, when we are taught about diversity, understanding and accepting other life ways is a desirable outcome for any education program.

The final point in the editorial was about respecting children’s knowledge, and listening to them. To this I say, “Bravo!” But think about this, young journalists; your education is up to you, as much as the system. And if you can give us chapter and verse of your favorite episode of “Scooby-do” or “Space Ghost,” then getting the big picture in school is important too. One reason fifth graders can answer these questions is that they are engaged in learning. By the time we all reach young adulthood and the ivory tower, we may be a bit more jaded and just want to “get the degree,” get a good job and move on. Try and recapture some of the curiosity and enthusiasm you had back in middle school! Dazzle your professors and friends!

OK, I’ve said my piece. Who wants to play “Trivial Pursuit?”