Lack of basic knowledge in the times of Google: standard or stigma?
With wi-fi available pretty much everywhere these days, and everyone equipped with a mobile phone and instant acces to the internet, do we still need to know who was the first president of USA or who won world war II? Is it a sign of ignorance if we don’t know if Leopold Bloom was created by James Joyce or Charles Dickens? Would it be a sign of stupidity, narrow mind or a bad memory that we cannot list three of Shakespeare’s plays?
With the ever-changing education and syllabus, the requirements children face from schools and universities keep shrinking like angora sweaters in a wash’n dryer. We all know it’s easier for the governments to lead groups of people with questionable IQ, than tell the erudite what to do or think. Huxley didn’t write “Brave New World” for nothing. It’s a great example of why no one is doing anything about the fact we expect less and less from ourselves.
Should we be equipped in the basic knowledge, or should we count on our mobile provider to have full coverage wherever we go? Did we fail as parents if our kids have no interest in acquiring information and absorbing knowledge?
I got inspired to write this post after recording my step daughter and her friend, both 14-years-old, answering a string of random questions requiring a basic level of knowledge. We have covered various subjects, from God to daVinci, finishing proudly on One Direction. The results were eye opening if not disappointing. I can protect my stance here saying I only entered my step-daughter’s life when she was eleven, but this attempt to cover up for the influence of the environment would be pathetic. I am pretty convinced, that even having 14-year-old kids of my own today, I could have ended up with the same result. Why? Because with all the intend in the world, a normal (I do not use this world lightly) family hasn’t got energy and time to be enthusiastic about the education of their kids. We count on schools for that. The moment we realise that teachers are not actually able to replace our input it’s most often too late.
How much basic knowledge do British pupils really have? The answer, however, may not be exactly what we want to hear. Some highlights from the “teen interview” here:
ME: Do you think God exists?
Girls: No, just no, but we think heaven exists, and spirits.
ME: Is UK in European Union?
Girls: Is this where you use Euros?
ME: What’s the capital of USA?
ME: Who won World War II?
Girls: Weren’t we all allies? America helped us.
ME: Who wrote Oliver Twist?
Girls: Charles Dickensons?
ME: Who wrote Macbeth.
ME: Who painted Mona Lisa?
Girls: Leonardo DiCaprio.
ME: What’s DNA?
Girls: All the little things that make you YOU? No, that’s personality. It’s all the little things that you cannot see.
ME: What 3.14 stands for in math
Girls: Pie! Apple pie? Chicken pie? Potato? We did it in math.
ME: Give me 4 out of 5 names of guys from One Direction
Girls: Harry, Louis, Zane, Niel, Liam!!!
I had a look on line and quickly realised, that someone has beat me to it and interviewed teens on the other side of the globe. Here’s a video made by one American student..
Paul Peterson, a Harvard government professor, notes the effect this could have on the economy: ”If we’re going to grow at the rate that we hope to grow at to address the many issues that exist in our society, we need to have a powerful educational system that is producing a highly proficient workforce.”
Finland shocked the world with their scores on the 2000 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) –an international exam for 15-year-olds where it ranked first for reading proficiency. By 2009, the country inhabited the top of the roster in reading, second in science and sixth in math.
A 2010 study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed the U.S. history testing scores are “stagnant,” with only 9 percent of fourth graders correctly identifying a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and stating two reasons for his importance.
Lee White, executive director of the National History Coalition, says the problem stems from history’s place in American curriculum: ”They’ve narrowed the curriculum to teach to the test. History has been de-emphasised,” he said. “You can’t expect kids to have great scores in history when they’re not being taught history.”
Should we feel better only because the rest of the world is at exactly the same level? And what about the amazing kids we see around, that are far beyond their age? Do you think the level of knowledge is going head to head with the level of income? It’s not a secret that the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, so could it be true that the gap between kids with limited level of knowledge and the future omni scientists is also widening?
I am really in two minds about it, and as much as I have an opinion on most topics, this “issue” has got as many ways in which we can look at it.
Let me know your thoughts!