What’s the minimum you should know?

Have you seen this show Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? on Fox? It’s a game show hosted by Jeff Foxworthy – no wait, keep reading!  The format is fairly interesting, but I’m not going to get in to a description of the mechanics of the show.  Just watch an episode.  Adults have to answer elementary school level questions to win a bunch of money.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my own education, and even more so about my personal “knowledge-base.” I’ve been trying to determine minimum levels of mastery for a variety of subjects. I’m not looking for a degree, I’m just seeking knowledge.  I’ve been looking at the free-ed.net site and considering going through some of their classes.

Here are some topics they cover, where I think I stand, and how I think I might approach them:

Art and Music Appreciation
This makes me cringe. This might make me a bad person, but I’m okay with that. I can’t draw anything more complicated than a stick figure and there’s not a musical note in my body.  I don’t even listen to music.  I don’t mind spending a couple of hours walking around a museum, but to me appreciating a painting is saying, “oh, that’s pretty.”  I don’t care who painted it and what phase of their career they were in and what influenced them or what brush stroke they used.  “Oh, that’s pretty” is good enough.  And I like going to the occasional  concert, especially if the music isn’t too loud.

English
I generally have no problem creating sentences understandable to other native English speakers despite the fact that I really can’t identify a preposition or a conjunctive adverb.  But still, I should work on that.

Philosophy and Religion
Heh. Heh-heh. That should really be its own post, shouldn’t it?  Really though, I wouldn’t mind reading more of the greats of philosophy.

Languages
I studied German for 5 years in High School.  Then suddenly I was old, and high school was a long time ago.  I wish I hadn’t let that go.  I’d like to get it back, only because I already put so much time into it.  And I’d like to learn Portuguese.

Literature
I’m not so sure about studying literature. You just read it.  I’ll read it.

Economics
Along with physics, an area of great interest to me.  I can’t learn enough about Economics.

Electronics
I would like to have a deeper understanding of the basic elements of circuit design that captured my imagination as a little kid, as well as the math behind them.

Geography
Fascinates me for reasons I don’t understand.  Gives you edge in Jeopardy.  I could spend hours reading the CIA World Factbook.  What’s the capital of Senegal?

Psychology and Sociology
I’m interested in these subjects to the extent that they can help me.  If I can read a poker tell, know if someone is lying to me (like the Mentalist,) or understand crowd behavior in some useful way, it’s worth studying.  Beyond that, phooey.

History
Whether you’re into it or not, if you don’t know history people will assume you’re stupid.  A staggering number of Americans can’t name the Axis powers. Fortunately, I’m interested in history. US History was the only AP class I took in high school.  Still, I have a lot to learn.  And in a completely unrelated subject, I also enjoy alternate history novels, although I suspect they confuse me in the same way The Onion confuses Chrissy.  The South didn’t have AK-47s in the Civil War, right?

Anthropology and Archaeology
I understand these are different things, and it may offend Donnie and Ross to see them lumped together, but at the level I’m interested in them they are essentially the same.  I’m mostly interested in the evidence that the Earth is about 4,499,994,000 years older than Genesis might have some believe.

Mathematics
The only Math I ever “got” was Geometry. It made sense to me, so it was easy. I can still see to this day how it’s useful in daily life, and I wouldn’t mind brushing up on it.  My grades reflected quite a mastery of Trigonometry, but I think a careful examination would reveal my answers were very similar to Cheryl Risk’s answers.  I still don’t even know what Trigonometry is. I can’t imagine I’ll ever make it past a basic intro to something like Calculus. I’m okay with that.  A man has got to know his limits.

Physics
In my mind all other sciences bow down to physics. I read about physics all the time, although I might spend an unreasonable amount of time in the theoretical physics and not enough studying the more practical classical mechanics.  As with Economics, I will continue to read as much as I can about physics for as long as I can.  And with this being the International Year of Astronomy I’ve been into that even more than usual.

Chemistry, Biology, the other Sciences
Yeah, they’re all good too.

3 thoughts on “What’s the minimum you should know?”

  1. You like geography because, well, have you talked to your dad lately? The man is a walking atlas. It’s fascinating. He can tell you the best way to get to Amarillo from Phoenix. Has he been to either city? Not important.

  2. Funny, I had a dream last night that I was trying to get someplace by boat and ran into a big storm. I went back to the dock and my dad was sitting there. He gave me directions around the storm!

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