Ministry of Propaganda

Ministry of Propaganda - 24/Feb/2005: "General Knowledge"

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General Knowledge

Growing up in Germany I remember the endless discussions about Allgemeinbildung (that's the German word for general knowledge). What were the things you really had to know, which historical dates should you remember, which books should you have read? Linked to it the complaints by the older generation that the younger generation is clueless and doesn't have a good 'Allgemeinbildung' any more. Mainly because they hadn't read their Goethe or didn't know some historic event from 1928. Moving over to the UK I found it not to be much different here, with discussions about 'dumbing down' and lack of knowledge about British history. Catching up on some newspapers from last week I stumbled over an interesting experiment in The Herald:

They organised a teenagers -vs- adults challenge, pupils from Hyndland High School were paired against adults from the Allander Rotary Club in Bearsden. First the teenagers had to answer 12 questions posed by the adults, then the the adults faced 12 questions by the teenagers. Both sides fared equally well (or badly, depending on how you look at it). They also gained respect for each other and recognised that different ages, different interests and different priorities require different knowledge.

Which strenghtens me in my opinion that 'general knowledge' is arbitrary. Different generations and different people have different knowledge needs to get through life. Facts are just that, not a goal in itself, in particular because most of them can easily be looked up nowadays. Much more important is to instill some curiosity and the will to challenge, learn and investigate into people, in particular young people.

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