What you don’t know can hurt you

These are the questions that come from an article on HOW A GENERATION LOST ITS COMMON CULTURE, but all it really shows is the chasm that separates the generations. No one would know this, but what’s worse, no one among the young would think it matters.

Ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?

Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?

None of them understand how an economy works, which I think is infinitely worse. They could barely give you a coherent explanation how their bread and milk find their way to the kitchen. But then again, neither could most adults.

They don’t know that their societies have enemies, or even have enough knowledge of what their society is, and how it is different from all others, to know that it needs to be protected, nor would they know how to do it.

It seems bad to me and to the chap who wrote the article, but who knows if it is? But if it does turn out to matter as we think, consequences will follow. Until then, but only until then, we shall just go on as we have.

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