Category Archives: Culture

The History of the World According to Student Bloopers

alex atkins bookshelf educationRichard Lederer, a life-long word lover and prolific author (more than 30 books on the English language), has been collecting unique and fascinating words for decades. He also enjoys collecting verbal bloopers and malapropisms, the innocent goofs and gaffes that most people make in their daily speech and writing, unaware that they are mangling the English language, as well as important facts. Lederer writes “One of the fringe benefits of being an English or History teacher is receiving the occasional jewel of a student blooper in an essay. I have pasted together the following history of the world from certifiably genuine student bloopers collected by teachers throughout the United States, from eighth grade through college level.” This history of the world according to student bloopers will elicit either a hearty laugh or utter shock (these students actually graduated?), depending on your perspective:

“The inhabitants of ancient Egypt were called mummies. They lived in the Sarah Dessert and traveled by Camelot. The climate of the Sarah is such that the inhabitants have to live elsewhere, so certain areas of the dessert are cultivated by irritation. The Egyptians built the Pyramids in the shape of a huge triangular cube. The Pramids are a range of mountains between France and Spain.

The Bible is full of interesting caricatures. In the first book of the Bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children, Cain, once asked, “Am I my brother’s son?” God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Montezuma. Jacob, son of Isaac, stole his brother’s birth mark. Jacob was a patriarch who brought up his twelve sons to be patriarchs, but they did not take to it. One of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, gave refuse to the Israelites.

Pharaoh forced the Hebrew slaves to make bread without straw. Moses led them to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Afterwards, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandments. David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Philatelists, a race of people who lived in Biblical times. Solomon, one of David’s sons, had 500 wives and 500 porcupines.

Without the Greeks we wouldn’t have history. The Greeks invented three kinds of columns–Corinthian, Doric, and Ironic. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in The Iliad, by Homer. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.

Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.

The Renaissance was an age in which more individuals felt the value of their human being. Martin Luther was nailed to the church door at Wittenberg for selling papal indulgences. He died a horrible death, being excommunicated by a bull. It was the painter Donatello’s interest in the female nude that made him the father of the Renaissance. It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented the Bible. SirWalter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented cigarettes. Another important invention was the circulation of blood. Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100-foot clipper.

Then came the Middle Ages. King Alfred conquered the Danes, King Arthur lived in the Age of Shivery, King Harold mustarded his troups before the Battle of Hastings, Joan of Arc was cannonized by Bernard Shaw, and victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. Finally, Magna Carta provided that no free man should be hanged twice for the same offense.

During the RenaissanceAmerica began. Christo-pher Columbus was a great navigator who discovered America while cursing about the Atlantic. His ships were called the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Fe. Later, the Pilgrims crossed the Ocean, and this was known as Pilgrims Progress.

George Washington married Martha Curtis and in due time became the Father of Our Country.Then the Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility. Under the Constitution the people enjoyed the right to keep bare arms.

Abraham Lincoln became America’s greatest Prec-edent. Lincoln’s mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. When Lincoln was President, he wore only a tall silk hat. He said, “In onion there is strength.” Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address while traveling from Washington to Gettysburg on the back of an envelope. On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. The believed assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth’s career.

The sun never set on the British Empire because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West. Queen Victoria was the longest queen. She sat on a thorn for 63 years. Her reclining years and finally the end of her life were exemplatory of a great personality. Her death was the final event which ended her reign.

The nineteenth century was a time of many great inventions and thoughts. The invention of the steam boat caused a network of rivers to spring up. Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men. Samuel Morse invented a code of telepathy. Louis Pasteur invented a cure for rabbis. Charles Darwin was a naturalist who wrote the Organ of Species. Madman Curie discovered radium. And Karl Marx became one of the Marx brothers.

The First World War, caused by the assignation of the Arch-Duck by a surf, ushered in a new error in the anals of human history.”

Even if you enjoyed this historical narrative, don’t expect to see it on the History Channel or a Ken Burns documentary.

Read related posts: Bloopers in English: Excuse Notes Written to Teachers
Fowl Language
The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns

For further reading: Verbatim by Erin McKean

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One of the Greatest Magazine Stories: Falling Man

alex atkins bookshelf cultureRichard Drew pressed the camera’s shutter button at 9:41 am on the morning of September 11, 2001, capturing an image of man leaping to his death that is horrific, elegiac, and poetic. This iconic photograph — “The Falling Man” — depicted one of more than 200 innocent people who jumped to their deaths that morning. It was printed on page 7 of the New York Times on the following day, etched forever in the American consciousness as a reminder of that dreadful day. Equally powerful was the thought-provoking story that writer Tom Junod wrote about the identity of that lone figure in the September 2003 issue of Esquire magazine, titled “The Falling Man.” When you read the introduction to the story, it is easy to understand why the editors of Esquire consider it one of the greatest stories in the magazine’s 75-year history.

“In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet… The man in the picture… is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else — something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man’s posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is… in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.”

Almost 20 years later, reflecting on that photo, Richard Drew states: “I never regretted taking that photograph at all. It’s probably one of the only photographs that shows someone dying that day. We have a terrorist attack on our soil and we still don’t see pictures of our people dying — and this is a photograph of someone dying. “

The Falling Man’s true identity has never been established.  The photos reveal that he was dark-skinned, lanky, wore a goatee, dressed in black pants, and a bright-orange shirt under a white shirt. Some believe it was Jonathan Briley, an employee at the Windows on the World restaurant. Miraculously, the FBI found his body the next day. Juno concludes his article:

“Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn’t jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.

Oh, no. You have to fall.

Yes, Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man. But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky—falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame—the Falling Man—became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.”

For further reading:
http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0903-SEP_FALLINGMAN
http://www.esquire.com/features/page-75/greatest-stories?click=main_sr#slide-1
http://time.com/4453467/911-september-11-falling-man-photo/?utm_source=time.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=2017091117pm&xid=newsletter-brief

 


How Filthy is Your Money?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaHow often do you handle money, specifically paper currency? Do you typically wash your hands after you handle it? Read on and you just might be reaching for a bottle of hand sanitizer at the very sight of money. And you will certainly feel pity for the bank teller that has to handle cash all day long. Consider that paper currency, made of 75% cotton and 25% linen, stays in circulation for 5 to 15 years. Imagine wearing a pair of jeans or shirt that long and never washing it. Gross! Let’s take a look at just how filthy money is…

Biologist Julia Maritz and her intrepid colleagues from the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University wanted to find out just how filthy paper currency is. Their study, “Filthy lucre: A metagenomic pilot study of microbes found on circulating currency in New York City” was published on PLOS One on April 6, 2017. The researchers swapped circulating $1 bills (since they have the highest volume and shortest lifespan of all currencies) from New York City bank in the winter and summer of 2013. They utilized metagenomic sequencing to profile the microbes found on the paper currency’s surface. “So what did they find?” you ask. You may not want to know. The researchers identified more than 397 bacterial species, including the following:

Bacteria from the skin
Propionibacterium acnes
Staphylococcus epidermis

Bacteria from the mouth
Micrococcus luteus
Streptococcus oralis
Rothia (R. mucilaginosa, dentocariosa)

Bacteria from the mouth or stomach
Veillonella parvula

Bacteria from the vagina
Corynebacterium aurimucosum
Gardnerella vaginalis
Xanthomonas campestris

Opportunistic pathogen
Acinetobacter baumannii

Bacteria associated with dairy production and fermentation
Lactococcus lactis
Streptococcus thermopiles

If that isn’t enough to make you heave, Jonathan Oyler and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health published a study in 1996 that found traces of cocaine in 79% of $1 bills from cities across the United States. Other studies have identified the presence of Escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus. Are you completely disgusted by now?

One thing is for sure — you’ll think twice the next time someone asks: “what’s in your wallet?”

Read related posts: What Has the Most Germs in a House?
Weird Phobias You Didn’t Even Know Existed

For further reading: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0175527
https://academic.oup.com/jat/article/20/4/213/838490/Cocaine-Contamination-of-United-States-Paper
http://time.com/4918626/money-germs-microbes-dirty/?utm_source=time.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=2017090617pm&xid=newsletter-brief


What is a Tu Quoque Argument?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesA tu quoque (pronounced “too KWOH kwe” or “too KWOH kwee), from the Latin “you also,” is an informal logical fallacy, often used as a red herring tactic, that identifies hypocrisy as a way to refute an argument. That is to say, an opponent’s argument would be refuted by asserting that the opponent does not behave in accordance with their argument. For example, Person A could claim: “It is morally wrong to drive cars that increase our dependence on fossil fuels and not renewable energy. Person B responds: “How can you say that driving fossil-fuel cars is morally wrong when you drive a gas-guzzling SUV?” Another example, at the heart of our country’s founding, is this: person A states: “All men are created equal.” Person B responds: “How can you say that all men are created equal when you are a slave owner?”

Like the ad hominem argument (attacking the character, attribute, or motive of an opponent), the tu quoque argument is a fallacy because the specific actions of an opponent are irrelevant to the logic of an argument. Although the opponent can be clearly exposed for being a hypocrite, it does not make his argument wrong, and your argument correct. The resolution of the argument has to be based on the presentation of supporting facts and ideas.

Closely related to the tu quoque argument is whataboutism (also known as whataboutery) that refutes an opponent’s argument by directly accusing them of hypocrisy (or some wrongdoing) without directly disproving their argument. Danielle Kurtzleben, a journalist at NPR, describes it succinctly: “Party A accuses Party B of doing something bad. Party B responds by changing the subject and pointing out one of Party A’s faults — ‘Yeah? Well what about that bad thing you did?’ (Hence the name.)” Denise Clifton, a journalist for Mother Jones, likens whataboutism to a defensive child’s playground cry: “Look at what she did!” What about them?” “See what my opponent did!”

Whataboutism was one of the key strategies of Soviet and Russian propaganda during the Cold War (about 1947-1991). In the essay, “Come Again, Comrade?” the editors of The Economist elaborate: “Soviet propagandists during the cold war were trained in a tactic that their western interlocutors nicknamed ‘whataboutism.’ Any criticism of the Soviet Union (Afghanistan, martial law in Poland, imprisonment of dissidents, censorship) was met with a ‘What about…’ (apartheid South Africa, jailed trade-unionists, the Contras in Nicaragua, and so forth).” Unfortunately, under Putin’s current leadership in Russia, whataboutism is making a big comeback. When Russia annexed Crimea and intervened in the Ukraine, Putin employed the whataboutism strategy to defuse (or more accurately, dodge) the charges of human rights violations. Recently when Megan Kelly questioned Putin about interference in the US election, Putin instinctively responded: “Put your finger anywhere on a map of the world, and everywhere you will hear complaints that American officials are interfering in internal election processes.”

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, a cloud of suspicion has hung over him and members of his staff alleging that they colluded with the Russians to interfere in the presidential election. While many are disturbed about Trump’s glowing assessment of Putin, only a few journalists have noted that his greatest compliment to his Russian counterpart is his adoption of whatboutism (indeed, as the English cleric Charles Caleb Colton once observed,  “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”) NPR’s Kurtzleben notes: “President Trump has developed a consistent tactic when he’s criticized: say that someone else is worse. This week, when the Congressional Budget Office estimated that Republicans’ health care plan would leave 24 million additional people uninsured in 2026, Trump’s first move wasn’t a direct response. Instead, he took to Twitter to blast the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare), criticizing how much was spent on promoting it and asking people to tweet their own criticisms.” Dmitry Dubrovsky, an expert on Russian politics and professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, believes that both Putin and Trump have similar political impulses; he explained: “[They] are both populist leaders. They always try to be as uncertain as possible. And for a populist that’s important. Whataboutism is a very substantial part of populism rhetoric… It is very childish. That’s why the populist is speaking in this language. Everyone understands it quite well. The strategy is to avoid any argument and to sound like you speak from your soul.” But Mother Jones’ Clifton believes that Trump takes whataboutism to a whole new level: “In Trump’s version of whataboutism, he repeatedly takes a word leveled in criticism against him and turns it back on his opponents—sidestepping the accusation and undercutting the meaning of the word at the same time.” [emphasis added]

Beyond being a very powerful and effective rhetorical device, whataboutism has a very dark side. Because it is employed by several leaders around the world, it has a very sinister global agenda; Dubrovsky adds: “Trump, as well as Putin, as well as others, have followed this populist path. Russia was a pioneer of this global shift in narrative. The situation globally is to destroy the principles of human rights or democracy or international dialogue. Or to deny that such principles exist at all. [The real agenda of whataboutism] is to destroy the democratic values of the truth.”

Read related posts:  O. J. Simpson Trial and the Chewbacca Defense
Most Common Logical Fallacies

For further reading: http://www.economist.com/node/10598774
http://www.npr.org/2017/03/17/520435073/trump-embraces-one-of-russias-favorite-propaganda-tactics-whataboutism
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/07/trump-rants-propaganda/


An Eloquent Defense of a Liberal Arts Education

alex atkins bookshelf educationIt’s bad enough we live in the Age of Google when we are awash with too much information to process. Tidal waves of information wash up on our shores every day. To complicate matters, that information is now tainted by the Trumpian twisted notion of truth — each day the water is polluted with alternative facts, fake news, and spinglish (the deceptive language used by professional spin doctors). In short, the Truth is under assault — and as many pundits point out, we’re in really deep shit. So what can we do?

Enter Clayton S. Rose, a former professor at Harvard Business School and the 15th president of Bowdoin College (established in 1794 in Brunswick, Maine), to don a suit of armor and take arms against a sea of deception and distortion. In an essay for Time magazine titled “Why We Need the Liberal Arts Now More Than Ever,” Rose fiercely and eloquently defends a liberal arts education and the obligation to serve the common good:

“I couldn’t help pondering where we are today in the worlds of politics, of government and of the media — imperfect but essential institutions for a healthy democracy. We have evolved to a most distressing place — to a place in our society and world where intellectual engagement is too often mocked.

Facts are willfully ignored or conveniently dismissed. Data is curated or manipulated for short-term gain rather than to test or illuminate aspects of the truth. Hypocrisy runs rampant and character appears to no longer be a requirement for leadership. Instant gratification and personal aggrandizement are celebrated as virtues over the work of tackling hard problems that ultimately serve the public interest and common good.

This is decidedly a nonpartisan problem. We have evolved to this place over a long period, and there is more than enough blame to go around to all sides. Whatever one’s political and world views, we should all be alarmed. A system where skill, expertise, data, judgement, discourse, respect and character are in short supply is a system in trouble.

A liberal arts education can play an important role in correcting this problem. [A liberal arts curriculum should] create an environment where students can be intellectually fearless, where they can consider ideas and material that challenge their points of view, may run counter to deeply held beliefs, unsettles them or may make them uncomfortable. We do this to prepare our graduates to effectively tackle.. issues that polarize us today.

In a liberal arts setting, intellectual fearlessness is achieved through the development and enhancement of competence, community and character.

Competence comes through a rigorous education — one that builds and sharpens the skills of critical thinking and analysis; the ability to understand the political, social, natural, ethical, cultural and economic aspects of the world we inhabit; the ability to continue to learn; and the disposition to be intellectually nimble, to exercise judgment and to communicate effectively.

We don’t tell students what to think. We strive to teach them how to think, to give them the knowledge and skills to develop the courage to think for themselves and shape their own principles, perspectives, beliefs and solutions to problems.

We also provide students with seemingly endless ways to serve the common good — the notion that we have an obligation to something bigger than ourselves. This serves to strengthen our community and to make our students part of other communities, helping them better understand what binds each of us together.

We want our students to understand and celebrate their wonderfully diverse identities, experiences and backgrounds, while also enjoying and appreciating the deep bonds of being a part of our college community. Being part of a strong and diverse community requires an ability to talk honestly with one another about the real issues. That’s why we push our students to develop skills and an ability to engage in thoughtful and respectful ways with those who have varying perspectives, and with whom they may disagree — sometimes profoundly.

We also seek to promote character — principled lives, work and play that have integrity, an acknowledgment of the gifts we have been given and respect for others and ourselves. Liberal arts colleges are steeped in opportunities to engage intellectually and to reflect deeply across all disciplines about what character means, why it matters and how one might live it. And there are many chances over four years for students to actually engage in challenges that test and develop their character.

At this challenging moment in our society and world, it would be easy to despair. But I do not. I am optimistic because I know the power of competence, community and character. The liberal arts matter now more than ever.”

Amen, brother. Next challenge: can we just make a liberal arts education affordable for every young person in America?

Read related posts: Getting the Most Out of College
How College Can Help You to Live a Good Life
How Many College Grads Have Jobs Related to Their Major?
The College Admissions Mania
The Parable of the Carpenter’s Son
The Best Books for Graduates: 2015
What Makes a Great Mentor?

What Makes a Great Teacher?
What Should you Teach Your kids Before They Leave Home?

Education Reform
Lifelong Learning with The Great Courses

Education or Indoctrination?

For further reading: http://time.com/4920389/bowdoin-college-liberal-arts-education/


What Does Google Know About You?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureIn his famous dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell introduced us to Big Brother, the leader of Oceania, who was power-hungry and had no interest in serving the common good. (Remind you of someone?) Back in the late 1940s, when Orwell wrote the novel, it was inconceivable that a government would subject its people to constant surveillance. In Oceania, surveillance was conducted via tele screens; they were often reminded that “Big Brother is watching you.” Of course, Orwell’s story is simply fiction; it could never happen…

Fast foward 70 years. Big Brother is here — and it’s right in your pocket or your hands. Google, while not a villainous autocrat, is watching you all the time — in ways that even Orwell’s Big Brother could not even fathom. Although most consider Google a search engine/apps company, it is actually a powerful, invasive ad agency with a voracious appetite for personal information — yours and every person on the planet who unwittingly surrenders their privacy to it — just so that it can make lots of money and sell you stuff. Consider that in 2015, Google earned $75 billion and 77% of it, $52 billion, came from advertising.

So how much does Google really know about you? Tom Gara, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, wanted to find out what Big Brother — I mean, Google — knows about him. What he discovered is enough to make you feel a bit violated. Gara writes: “Imagine there’s a list somewhere that contains every single webpage you have visited in the last five years. It also has everything you have ever searched for, every address you looked up on Google Maps, every email you sent, every chat message, every YouTube video you watched. Each entry is time-stamped, so its clear exactly, down to the minute, when all of this was done.” Google compiles an enormous amount of data about you and places it in three locations: My Dashboard, My Activity, and My Account. If someone were to hack into that information, they would learn all about you — perhaps more than your parents, your spouse, even your friends: who you know, what you read, what you watch, what you shop for, what you buy, what you write, and thus what you think. Welcome to the Orwellian modern world, the Age of Google.

This is what Google knew about reporter Gara:

64,019 searches he has done

134,966 emails

2,702 contacts

9,220 videos he has watched (and exactly when and what order)

117 apps he has downloaded

35 passwords he has stored in Google Chrome

Number of Android devices he owns (3)

3 credit card numbers

All the purchases he has made with those credit cards

855 documents he has created

Where he lives

Read related posts: If Shakespearean Characters Had Tinder Profiles
What are the Most Common Lies on Social Media?
A Mashup of Minds: Kim Kardashian and Soren Kierkegaard
Words Related to Trump
How Do We Spend Our Time During a Lifetime?

The Difference Between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life
The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of George Carlin

For further reading: https://blogs.wsj.com/corporate-intelligence/2013/07/31/googles-all-seeing-eye-does-it-see-into-me-clearly-or-darkly/
http://www.dailyinfographic.com/what-google-knows-about-you?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DailyInfographic+%28Daily+Infographic%29
http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/020515/business-google.asp

 


What Does It Mean to Be a Well-Educated Person?

alex atkins bookshelf educationToo often today, we hear someone described as being “well-educated.” The adjective is tossed about quite liberally — but ponder it for a moment: what does that really mean? Perhaps it means that such a person attended to a respected university, right? Don’t be fooled: attending a prestigious university does not really assure a great education — if the student did not challenge him or herself, took frivolous classes (eg, Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond, Zombies in Popular Media, How to Watch Television — you get the picture), and barely graduated due to poor grades. “What does it mean to be a well-educated?” is indeed an important and thought-provoking question; naturally it deserves a thoughtful answer.

Enter Marelisa Fabrega, a Jesuit-educated lawyer who founded the blog “Daring to Live Fully: Live the Length and Width of Your Life.” One night, Fabrega was ruminating on that very question: what does it mean to be an educated person? Her initial response was the one most of us have when we hear the phrase: perhaps it means someone attended a good college and earned advanced degrees; or perhaps it means the person is very well prepared for their career; or perhaps it means that the person is very well read. Fabrega’s next step was to review what others had written — one of those was a list of ten characteristics of a well educated person developed by Harvard University:

  1. The ability to define problems without a guide.
  2. The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
  3. The ability to quickly assimilate needed data from masses of irrelevant information.
  4. The ability to work in teams without guidance.
  5. The ability to work absolutely alone.
  6. The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
  7. The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
  8. The ability to discuss ideas with an eye toward application.
  9. The ability to think inductively, deductively and dialectically.
  10. The ability to attack problems heuristically (learning by trial-and-error)

Princeton University, on the other hand, believes there are 12 characteristics of a well-educated person:

  1. The ability to think, speak, and write clearly.
  2. The ability to reason critically and systematically.
  3. The ability to conceptualize and solve problems.
  4. The ability to think independently.
  5. The ability to take initiative and work independently.
  6. The ability to work in cooperation with others and learn collaboratively.
  7. The ability to judge what it means to understand something thoroughly.
  8. The ability to distinguish the important from the trivial, the enduring from the ephemeral.
  9. Familiarity with the different modes of thought (including quantitative, historical, scientific, and aesthetic.)
  10. Depth of knowledge in a particular field.
  11. The ability to see connections among disciplines, ideas and cultures.
  12. The ability to pursue life long learning.

A hallmark of Jesuit education is to never simply accept the status quo. Jesuit education encourages a student to dig a little deeper for the truth. And that’s exactly what Fabrega did. She reflected deeply on the question and came up with 50 characteristics of a well-educated person that considers not only academics, but emotional and social intelligence:

An educated person….

1. has the ability to think clearly and independently.
2. has good judgment.
3. knows how to learn.
4. knows how to acquire desired skills by identifying and utilizing available resources, deconstructing the process required for learning a particular skill, and experimenting with potential approaches.
5. has the ability to take initiative and work alone.
6. has the ability to communicate thoughts and ideas in writing, clearly and concisely.
7. has the ability to speak clearly.
8. has the ability to reason analytically and critically.
9. has the ability to think inductively and deductively.
10. questions assumptions.
11. doesn’t blindly accept what they are told; they go see for themselves. They can discern truth from error, regardless of the source.
12. knows how to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information (between the important and the trivial).
13. knows how to make productive use of knowledge; they know where to get the knowledge that they need, and they have the ability to organize that knowledge into a plan of action that is directed to a definite end.
14. understands human nature and has the ability to establish, maintain, and improve lasting relationships.
15. knows how to establish rapport with others; they know how get others to trust and respect them.
16. knows how to cooperate and collaborate effectively with others.
17. knows how to resolve conflicts with others.
18. knows how to persuade others.
19. has the ability to conceptualize and solve problems.
20. knows how to make decisions.
21. has the ability to see connections among disciplines, ideas and cultures.
22. is able to cross disciplinary boundaries and explore problems and their solutions from multiple perspectives.
23. is someone who has been educated holistically: creatively, culturally, spiritually, morally, physically, technologically, and intellectually.
24. has a broad liberal-arts education. They have a good overview of the following subjects: the natural sciences; the social sciences; history; geography; literature; philosophy; and theology.
25. has depth of knowledge—that is, specialized knowledge–in a particular field.
26. has achieved victory over themselves; they know how to withstand discomfort in the short term in order to achieve important goals in the long term.
27. has the capacity to endure and persevere.
28. is self-aware; they know how to perceive and manage their own internal states and emotions.
29. knows where and how to focus their attention.
30. has ethical values and has integrity.
31. has the ability and the discipline to do what is right.
32. is well-read and has cultural sophistication.
33. has equal esteem for everyone, without regard to gender, race, religion, country of origin, and so on.
34. understands their obligation to leave the world a little better than they found it.
35. is capable of doing new things; they have the ability to generate ideas and turn them into reality. is innovative.
36. is one whose natural curiosity has been awakened with the purpose of satisfying that curiosity.
37. has the ability to identify needed behaviors and traits and turn them into habits.
38. has the ability to identify harmful behaviors and traits—including thinking habits that are not serving them well—and the ability to modify them.
39. has the ability to keep their life in proper balance.
40. has the flexibility to admit when they’re wrong.
41. has quantitative literacy; they know how to use arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and statistics to solve problems.
42. can speak at least one language other than their own.
43. has financial literacy; they have the knowledge necessary to make sound financial decisions.
44. is adaptable and knows how to deal with change.
45. knows how to handle ambiguity.
46. has the ability to explore alternative viewpoints.
47. has aesthetic appreciation; they can sing and dance well, play at least one musical instrument, and can appreciate architecture, great art, and other expressions of creative genius.
48. has developed the personal philosophy that will allow them to be happy and successful.
49. has the ability and the discipline to constantly improve.
50. has the ability to pursue lifelong learning.

With this comprehensive list that sets the bar for a “well-educated person,” Fabrega asks us to think twice before bestowing that important adjective on an individual — particularly when students might attend college, but do not really learn.

Read related posts: What Books Should You Read to Be Well-Read?
The Books That Shaped America
The Books that Influence Us
What to Read Next
30 Books Everyone Should Read
50 Books That Will Change Your Life

The Most Assigned Books in College Classrooms

For further reading: http://daringtolivefully.com/educated-person
http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/20-completely-ridiculous-college-courses-being-offered-at-u-s-universities
http://www.informationliberation.com/?id=27324
https://joshkaufman.net/what-must-an-educated-person-know/


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