I attended a public school in rural Appalachia. I had excellent teachers and I had full faith in my education…until I started college. Suddenly enrolled in a major university, I was self-conscious my humble schooling would be lacking when stacked up against larger schools with greater access to technology. (Yes, kids I attended a school with designated rooms called ‘computer labs’ and only the grown-ups had cellphones. I’m not that old – only late 20’s – but central WV is a little behind the tech trends.) However, after of a few weeks of correcting people on West Virginia’s statehood (It IS an actual state, just in case you were confused) and expressing the simplest understanding of government, politics, history, science, etc. my confidence was restored. I may not have had cool electives or even the most politically correct instruction but the basics weren’t ignored either.
Ten years removed from High School, I have lost the rapid recall I once had. I hate realizing I “used” to know something. Forgetting is worse than ignorance because you know you’re missing something. It is true most of us carry around small but powerful computers and we can just ‘google’ the answer. But it feels like cheating. My teachers rarely allowed ‘open book’ tests. I can only image their chagrin at students using unconfirmed web queries to get through life.
After eight years of college (undergrad + grad) it is hardly expected I retain the specifics of my senior history class. There is only so much space in my head. But I wish I could. It’s disappointing to have to look up something you feel you should know, especially with two degrees mounted on the wall.
Alas even if I could remember everything I have learned, it would still be like holding back the tide. The amount of knowledge worldwide has doubled in the last two years, and at the current rate it will double again in 18 months. I don’t believe all knowledge held by the human race has doubled, but the amount of data has. Knowledge implies understanding and application, but what the h*ll are we going to do with all that data. How can we distribute it, store it, analysis. It is almost crippling.
In the end, I remember what I use most often. And I will just have to cope with the embarrassment of not remembering all 50 US State Capitals.
“Never memorize something that you can look up.” – Albert Einstein