We’ve all been in this position; the office is loud, you’re on the edge of a conversation, it sounds interesting. What was that? Oh, I know something about that!, and enter: your opinion. Only to discover that what has actually just fallen from your mouth, is not the articulate argument you hoped to make, but an entirely backwards view, based on a few glanced-at Metro headlines and what your twitterfeed told you in 140 resplendent characters. We’ve all felt let down by our knowledge at some point but eventually the gaps in your knowledge may well expose you to have been let down by your education. And if points mean prizes, you’ll be coming up short.
By prizes, I of course mean qualifications. The basics,Maths and English, you can’t really have gone wrong with. Fairly early on you are aware that you are good at one or the other of these two. If you are good at Maths you can get involved in all the brainy stuff, and you can see a purpose in Trigonometry in the real world. Congratulations, you’re employable! If you are better with The Words, well you’ll probably end up doing something similar to this, and something else that you get paid to do, so that you can come home and do to this.
Having reached my mid twenties, most of my immediate education has been put to use. I’ve used the prizes the exam board gave me to get myself a job, other parts of my education have gone into keeping me in a job, the maths has been taken to the pub to work out if I have this next drink, will I be any good at my job, tomorrow. You see the theme. The rest has largely been filed in deep storage, or was never really learnt to begin with. Languages; biology; politics; history; all thin files to say the least.
Take History. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know much about Scottish history, being Scottish. I can tell you lots on The History of the Scottish Book because I was made to study this at Uni, but ask me about William Wallace or anything not relating to Mel Gibson’s portrayal of a Scot and you’d have a hard time believing my roots. I know less about English History, and less again of English Geography. I might live in England, but unless it is on a tube map, you will have to show me. And then correct me before I try to guess where it is, which I will invariably get wrong.
Politics is another of those topics that can easily alienate (read bore) but it is in fact at the centre of everything. I know some of the basics; Labour are red, Conservatives are blue, and Lib Dems are yellow and at the moment the yellows and blues are running things but I couldn’t actually tell you which of the parties represent the Right or the Left. In terms of modern politics, I missed the boat. I’m being reeducated every time I read a paper, and I feel less and less pretentious for having bought the Guardian App as I am continually pleased with the things I have just learned.
‘Oh, the conversations I can have!’ I whistle to myself. Somewhere my education has let me down. A lack of interest in something at 15 should not result in absolute ignorance, surely. Exposed to as much information as we are, I must have gleaned more than politics-by-primary colours and a guide to England that looks like a dot-to-dot of the major costal towns.
I’ve yet to find a conversational home for much of the new information I am taking on board, but there are still occasional prizes for re-educating yourself; in polyfilling the gaps you were left with from your adolescent uptake of information.
The Test: The Pub Quiz.
The Prize: A free round?
That’s motivation enough for me.