‘Tis said there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip and so it has been with “Bratwurst.” Come the September issue of fête, however, my much misunderstood wiener shall rise triumphant. A month late, an actor short and several degrees of separation removed from its storyboard, but … what was it Calvin Coolidge said? Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
That boy had it goin’ on.
Thirty years ago, I hopped off the educational bandwagon no worse for wear. And what, one might reasonably ask, had I learned en route that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise?
I’m reading John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down today and only 30 pages in, I gotta ask … Might those 16 years have been spent better doing something else?
Here, in the order that they occur to me, are a few of the things that I learned in school …
On a map of South Carolina, Abbeville is the county with a perfect semi-circle bulging out on one side.
A paramecium moves around by wiggling its cilia.
The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides. (or maybe I learned that watching “The Wizard of Oz”)
That little bump at the end of your sternum is the xyphoid process.
The last line of The Scarlet Letter is, “In a field, sable, the letter ‘A’ gules.”
All of which adds up to? … raise your hand if you know the answer … anyone? … anyone?
I did learn to type, I’ll admit, and that skill has served me very well. And I learned enough French and German to demonstrate to appreciative shopkeepers in France and Germany that I have, at some point in my life, made at least a half-hearted attempt to familiarize myself with their languages. But I long ago forgot how to diagram a sentence. What a handy skill that would be today! I’ve forgotten trigonometry, too. All of it. Likewise the Balkan Wars and the Periodic Chart.
Fine, fine, but where did I learn to read and write, you ask. Don’t I have a teacher to thank? Actually, I’m told that I was reading and writing before my first day of kindergarden. Not at a very high level, but at some level. Was it necessary for me to go to school in order to continue reading and writing? And my parents, I’m sure, would have spent half a day teaching me to add and subtract and another half day teaching me long division had somebody else not agreed to act in their stead.
No, with apologies to Robert Fulghum, everything that I ever really needed to know I taught myself, just as Mr. Gatto says was common prior to 1850. That’s when mandatory public education came into being and widgetization replaced learning as the universal constant.
I failed widgetry, by the way.