Phew! I just read through a rather fascinating discussion over at Sir Francis' place. I must admit, I barely had enough of a frame of reference to understand most of the points made.
One theme that all the participants involved agreed on is that Canadians are not properly educated on the history that should matter to them. They all disagree on who's fault that is.
This is a common lament, heard quite frequently from various quarters, the most strident one being The Dominion Institute. A common refrain is that Canadians are too distracted by "technology" or have "short attention spans" etc. etc.
I think we may be dancing around the truth here. As individuals or as a society, we don't suffer from a lack of knowledge, or even raw information. We suffer from too much of both.
I freely admit that what I don't know far outweighs what I do know (or think I know). The more I read, the more this becomes apparent. (And to make Sir Francis sigh in exasperation. England had a civil war? Who's Milton?) Which is why I'm online blogging and reading. It is a means to fill the gaps in my knowledge. However, relying on Blogs and Wikipedia is relying on a vast online Coles notes edition of all of human understanding. Even so, I'm still overwhelmed.
Many/most Canadians don't understand their own history, they don't understand their form of government. In many of my posts I've tried to illustrate how many/most Canadians don't understand the Internet. You watch Holmes on Homes on TV and you learn that many/most Canadians do not understand how a house is built, and therefore are at the mercy of unscrupulous contractors. Financial people decry the fact that many/most Canadians do not understand how to properly mange their finances and their debt. It goes on and on and on. Each expert in a field is at pains to teach everyone a basic, fundamental understanding of that field.
Each is right. If "it" is something that we rely on or use, a more thorough understanding of "it" will allow us to utilize "it" more effectively. I'm reminded of a discussion I had many years ago. A co-worker was ranting that she had a raccoon problem. She had called the humane society and they politely informed her that they don't deal with those kind of things. She was quite irate and asked in exasperation, what are they good for then? I politely informed her that no, the humane society does not do wildlife control. That's the responsibility of the municipalities animal control division. She asked me how to contact them. I pointed out that it was in the blue pages, in the phone book. "Really? I never knew what those were for!" was her reply.
Who's fault is it that we do not know our history, how homes are built, what the blue pages are for? Our education system? That's always the easy obvious target. But get any group of people together and try to come up with a list of things we should be taught, the subject list would require more hours then there is in a day to teach. So necessary subjects get trimmed, become electives or cut altogether. That's not to say our education system is perfect, but it never will be.
Add in that we all have different interests (after all, that's how someone becomes an expert) and live in a rapidly changing world; and it becomes apparent that each of us has an impossible task before us to stay informed, educated, and knowledgeable on what matters to us.
And succinctly, that is why we fail these knowledge tests. Consider that the sum of human knowledge is constantly being refined and expanded, its obvious it will only get worse. Each of us will become even more isolated in our spheres of expertise where our only common ground will be sports, coffee and timbits.
I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing. We are creatures quite considerable and yet limited ability. Our emotional, physical and menatl limits constrain us all in various ways. All we can do is share what knowledge we have and hope that it helps others when they need it. Accept that no one knows everything. So share, discuss, learn and teach when you can spare the time.
In the meantime, how about them Blue Jays? Nice to have a winning team in Toronto right now isn't it?