Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cultural Literacy Wednesday....

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
1914-1918: WWI
1939-1945: WWII
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.


Anonymous said...

1066- battle of Hastings: WW1 dates are correct but Usa did not enter until l9l7 to l919_Began due to assassination of King Ferdinand,.WW ll Years are correct but usa did not enter until Dec 7 ,l941 with Pearl Harbor bombing on that Sun. AM. Pearl Harbor was a comedy of errors and not intention on USA part but entering the war had always been plan even though general population very largely against move until Pearl Harbor. Orwell book- l984. Was High School History teacher before Criminal Justice, Psychology Dr. Some what of a civil war buff. Dr. Ridge Any hard questions?

Aaron said...

Ally, as someone who remembers you from your childhood -- you were clearly more a nerd than you were an athlete. I think you participated in sports just to run away from your true identity. :P Sorry to call you out like that. I know most of your Blog readers don't know your early years.

I knew all the dates but 1066.

"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here": You're correct. I read it in High School. I probably would have had more interest in it if I weren't being graded on it and could read it at my leisure.
Aberdeen: Beats me? (I didn't even cheat and look it up.)
Absolute Zero: I'm shocked you don't know what Absolute Zero is. It took me three attempts to pass a college-level Physics course, but I could recite that it's the point that no more heat can be removed fromt he system.
Abstract Art: "kind of like porn" HAHA Personally, I always thought of it as "art" that didn't have a meaning.
AC/DC: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap!

icadle said...

Aberdeen - the military proving grounds?? maybe a battlefield before

Absolute Zero - 0 degree Kelvin - -274 degree centigrage. The point at which all mollecular motion stops.

Abstract Art - The use of forms and shapes that, independantly, have no meaning, but when combined create artistic expressions that evoke emotion.

AC/DC - in the context of American history, the band is austrailian I think, means the debate surround the electrification of the US. Whether to use alternating current or direct current. Direct current was first introduced and when alternating current was discovered, it was demonized and much propaganda was spewed forth against it. however, alternating current proved to deliver higher amperages with greater safety and i think it was easier to install so we now use alternalting current (AC) in our homes and businesses.
Unless you have a generator, then you have to have a DC converter box.

Anonymous said...

Sorry did not realize those were included questions at bottom . In too big of hurry to show my intelligence. How about a civil war question or two or three? Aw Com-on. Aberdeen-not Texas that is Abilene. Testing grown just as icadle stated. Absolute 0 -Would not have gotten this one but I feel sure icadle did except spelling of Centigrade.(Durn I do not like this much competition) Abstract art --again must agree with this Icadle blooger. AC/Dc -Icadle is also correct about the Alternating and Direct Current. Edison never did use alternating current and although he still got the credit he deserved for use of electrilization of cities etc. he was outpaced in his lifetime by refusing to realize that AC was a better idea. Free interesting point--- There is a lightbulb in house up North that was invented by Thomas Edison that was turned on by him and has not been turned off for over 100 years. Truth or Myth? Ridge

kathrynthomas said...

1066 is the battle of hastings.
aberdeen is a city in the uk.
"abandon hope, all ye who enter here.": dante, yes. title: the divine comedy.
absolute zero: something about the temperature being as low as possible. (no more heat can be removed.)
ac/dc: alternating current/direct current (dad and two friends are engineers)

this book sounds interesting. i may have to find it.

Ally said...

Dear readers: I'm impressed. I think we've got all of them covered. I had no clue on the absolute zero because I never took any physical sciences and haven't had a science class since I was 15 (I got AP credit that year and fulfilled my college and high school requirements). And the electricity bit NEVER occurred to me with AC/DC. Aberdeen, by the way, is Scotland's third biggest city and is often called the "Oil Capital of Europe" according to Wikipedia (I love that website).

Kathryn: So far the actual text of the book is a bit boring, but "The List" is fun! I'll post more next week, and we'll see if it gets harder.