Warning: I think most people will find this post very boring (or depending on your perspective, more boring than usual), but I’m writing these every Wednesday to hold myself accountable to reading Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by Edward Hirsch, Jr. I received the book over ten years ago as a Christmas gift from my mother (yes, I was/am a nerd in case you were wondering; thankfully I also played sports, so it kind of balanced out in school or at least that's what I tell myself), and I am now committed to reading it (yet need the accountability of my blog...hmm..). I am, unfortunately, probably pretty culturally illiterate--or at least by Hirsch’s standards.
I am especially ignorant of our nation’s history in part because of a string of crappy social studies teachers. It began in 5th grade with a teacher who was in her last year of work and thus had nothing to “lose.” She had a bad temper problem and even threw a book at a student once. I was too nervous to learn. In sixth grade my teacher was an alcoholic with a lot of personal problems, so he wasn’t exactly focused on imparting knowledge. My seventh grade teacher was very weird and moved me into a desk right in front of his desk so he could stare at me and chit chat about my parents (my step-father had once been his boss, so he liked to ask me all sorts of personal questions about him). I think he worked at a funeral home part time. My eighth grade social studies teacher at least kept me awake by constantly infuriating me. For example, he once bragged about how in high school he and his friends would terrorize a kid who was kind of “funny” (homosexual) with a baseball bat. On another occasion he began ranting about all of these “minority women who get themselves knocked up." I just about exploded with anger when he said stuff like that and would raise my hand to point out the fact that it takes two people to create a pregnancy, etc. Of course, whenever I would point out the problems with homophobia, blaming only women for social ills, etc., he would tell me to “just calm down because he was kidding” and laugh at how I took him so seriously. Kidding was his way of saying whatever he wanted and encouraging ignorant mindsets in young students (who were growing up in redneck land). I tried to get him fired, but he had tenure. Anyway, my point is that I have very little foundation in history (and other subjects) and haven’t taken it upon myself to fix this problem. So here’s my somewhat superficial attempt.
So I’m working my way through “The List” in this book, and it begins with dates. Let’s see how we do. I’ll post the answers in comments or tomorrow or something.
1066: First sign of Native American life?
1492: Even I know this one—Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
1776: Declaration of Independence/Bill of Rights?
1861-1865: Civil War
1984 (title): George Orwell’s book
Abandon hope, all ye who enter here: I think that’s from Dante’s Inferno (but I’ve never read it)
Aberdeen: capital of Scotland?
Absolute Zero: ?
Abstract art: Is it kind of like porn? I can’t define it, but I’ll know it when I see it?
AC/DC: “You shook me all night long.”
Oh there aren’t any answers in this book! Wikipedia, here I come.