“Useless” knowledge

A while ago I posted a reply to a blogger at edu180atl.  He was pondering his curious appetite for learning and how it seemed to blossom AFTER his formal education had concluded.  He astutely said the following:

Why do we want to keep learning and grow in knowledge? Is it just to impress people at the next Trivia game?

My comment follows.  I figured, since I’m a bit rusty about getting back into blogging, I’d use this to “dust off the digits.”

This is often the cited reason for accumulating and spouting off trivia. There’s a good deal of truth to it; we all want to be perceived as smart and capable. But I think there’s a deeper truth to those trivia junkies, the keepers of “useless knowledge.” The optimist in me thinks that that display of wealth is a masked expression of a desire to connect with others.

I was on a road trip recently, stopped on the roadside at an interpretive marker in Redwoods National Park. A man and woman pulled up on a Harley-Davidson Road King; the man and I swapped silly trivia about Redwoods. Within minutes it was revealed that we both read (and adored) “The Wild Trees” by Richard Preston. Our on-the-surface need to be the smarty-pants was really an expression for the love of a book about trees that became to us like family. The man, a retired sheriff from a coastal California town, teared up when he talked about the miracles, known and unknown, in the redwood canopy. I suspect that he and I drove into the park, in separate vehicles, from opposite ends of the park, dying to share that book with someone else.

Earlier I referred to “useless knowledge.” It occurs to me that knowledge isn’t useless if it connects people. Keep on learning, and share what you’ve learned! Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down in pixels.

So, that was my response to Hayward McEver.  And in the last 10 years I can think of dozens of occasions when I sauntered up to a park ranger, museum docent, fellow teacher, student, or completely unaffiliated stranger with a morsel of knowledge that set my curiosity aflame, hoping to share it with another.  Thanks to Mr. McEver, I can let go of the label of “smarty-pants” and adopt the moniker “social learner.”