Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Know Much

According to Cory, I got that whole Newton thing wrong in my post a couple days ago. He explained it all, though I'm not sure I understood it.

Sometimes my kids talk about what they're learning in school, and I wonder if I learned that when I was in school. If I did, I can't remember it now. It makes me wonder how important the stuff I learned in school really was. Of course, I could never say that when Beth was complaining about how much she hated school and how she was never going to use anything she learned, anyway.

Looking back, I'm sure I learned the things I was supposed to in school. I'm not sure if I learned because I was interested and wanted to learn, or just because I wanted to get good grades. I do remember enjoying organic chemistry, sociology, and studying WWII and the history of Rock 'n Roll in history class, but that's about it. Oh, and I did like Algebra but hated Geometry. Do I actually remember any of it? Not so much.

Thankfully, I've discovered the Don't Know Much About series of books by Kenneth C. Davis. I have the latest one Don't Know Much About anything else, and it is packed with all kinds of things I never learned about famous people, exceptional places, historic happenings, remarkable inventions, and more. I love the format of this book. You get a page with a short paragraph about the subject then a short quiz with a few fun questions. For instance the page for California looks like this:
From Death Valley and Silicon Valley and Napa Valley to Valley Girls, California is a special state - of mind. America's most populous state, which was admitted into the Union in 1850 following the Mexican War, discovered gold in 1848 and experienced the Gold Rush in 1849. America's third largest state (after Alaska and Texas) has been attracting dreamers for centuries. What do you know about the "Golden State"? Try this quick quiz:
  1. Where does the word California come from?
  2. Who were the first Europeans to settle in California?
  3. The 1930s influx of migrant workers into California inspired what novel by which native Californian?
  4. If California has one great fault, what is it?
...and then you turn the page for the answers. I got #4 right! (What? You think I should give you the answers? I was going to say you need to get the book for those, but I'll leave them in a comment. If you want to see what else you can learn, you'll need the book for that.)

The whole Don't Know Much About series is built around quirky, offbeat and occasionally irreverent questions meant to get people thinking in new ways. It's real quick and easy to just pick the book up in a spare moment and learn something new. And it's fun - if only learning could be so interesting in school! I might even start understanding what the kids are learning - either that or I 'll know stuff they don't know much about. Now, won't that be fun?

Another random question about California: In what city in California was I born? ( you won't find the answer to that one in the book!)


  1. Answers to the California questions:

    1) Spanish discoverer Hernan Cortes first used it in 1535, but no one is sure what it means. Two possibilities: it is drawn from a 1500 Spanish romance in which California is an island near Paradise, or it is derived from the Spanish words for "hot furnace." Sounds like it is either Heaven or Hell.

    2) The Spanish Franciscan Father Junipero Serra set up a string of missions, beginning with one at San Diego in 1769. The native inhabitants were Christianized, but were soon used as forced labor at the missions.

    3) John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath

    4) The San Andreas Fault is the geological fault line running the length of the state ans which is responsible for thousands of earthquakes, most of them mild, which strike the state each year.

    How many did you know?

  2. It's hard to remember what we learn in school unless we use it. We covered a lot of things I had no interest in so didn't even bother trying to remember those.

  3. I seem to remember that you were born in Pasadena, CA.

  4. Pasadena, CA sounds like a good answer to the city where you were born. Seems I was there at the time. :))


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