Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned But Probably Didn't" by Judy Jones & William Wilson

I saw this book in a catalog called "Acorn". It is kind of like the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, from which I remember Doc Williams reading excerpts to us in English my senior year of high school (or was that my junior year? it all kind of runs together now), except that it is in a much more readable format rather than being organized alphabetically like an encyclopedia (or, dare I say, a dictionary). It covers a good number of topics (from government to literature to economics with lots in between) and kind of hits the high spots of what anyone *should* retain from a good liberal arts education. I read the "Art History" section first and am poised to delve into "Philosophy" next. So far, one of the things I love about this book is how it is rather cross-referential, bringing in examples from other disciplines in order to explain the subject at hand.

My only problem: although the book is loaded with great information, I'm afraid I'm not retaining much of it this time around, either... maybe it will take several readings. It's funny; this "incomplete education" concept makes me think of a quote I read in the most recent Reader's Digest: "Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten." (B.F. Skinner). Throughout my life I have been given ample opportunities to learn, but sadly (and with much embarrassment) I must admit that my resultant education seems rather skimpy. That's nothing but my own fault. I really want to actually remember a lot of the information I read in this book, and if reading it through more than once is what it takes, I'll do it. But at 678 fact-packed pages, just one reading is probably going to take me a year and a day.

Note that when I purchased the book, to me the title meant that my education was incomplete and this book would bring me closer to completing it. However, in the foreword I see that the authors intended the title to refer to the fact that the book holds the information which will give you but an incomplete education. As they say (and I paraphrase somewhat): first of all, what exactly would a "complete" education consist of? And if such a thing were possible, would you really want it? To know it all? And to quote: "No gaps to fill, no new territory to explore, nothing left to learn, education over?" Even when they put it that way... I don't know, knowing it all sounds pretty cool.


adamaero said...

Exactly a complete education? Yes, always /more/ to learn & know, but it would be a love for education and research and critical thinking and analysis. To use it--not only in a job--for everyday and not so everyday life. Not temporary rote facts. Who cares if they do not know who won the battle of Antitam (or that they spelled it wrong). "The system" is too close to what something like Charles Manson thinks it is.

Kathy said...

I definitely think "the system" in terms of the American educational system leaves something to be desired. There are a lot of hard-working individuals trying to make a difference, but rather than a resultant synergy, somehow American education is falling short.