General knowledge is not common
How many times does the earth spin around the sun in one year?
What is Greg Norman famous for?
Was Nelson Mandela South African or South American?
Many teenagers can’t answer these questions. So adults lament at the lack of general knowledge, and bemoan at the inadequacies of our education system and blame ‘the modern world’.
There is no problem with knowledge, the question to ask is whether we have a problem at all.
Remember those old WW2 war movies where the family sat around the radio listening to a broadcast? Baby boomers might actually remember a similar environment by sitting around the TV with their parents watching the nightly news or a TV drama like Dallas.
Back then, lifestyles were defined by narrow information consumption. Everyone got their information from the same places. Newspapers, some books, and the Television.
Even social circles were limited to the small group of people you could physically touch (or call one-on-one over the phone).
The internet changed all of that. Information is now free, and available in many ways.
What’s happened is that we can consume whatever information we want, whenever we want.
We think the kids are crazy because they don’t know what the Constitution is, but can name at least 4 Simpsons characters (as reported by the Telegraph).
Yet the kids think we’re crazy because we don’t know who Pewdiepe is (Note: at June 2015 he had 37 million You Tube subscribers).
Everyone knows what they want to know, and they need to know. This beautiful dispersion of general knowledge is a blessing, not a curse. It can only lead to greater ideas.
Let’s not criticise the kids for knowing the latest Kardashian’s news while not being upto speed on Middle Eastern politics. Let them decide what they should know.
General knowledge is not waning, it’s just no longer common.