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Twelve Things I Wish They Taught at School

  1.I attended junior and senior high school,public institution in New York and New Jersey,just after the Second World War. It seems a long time ago.The facilities and skills of the teachers were probably well above average for the United States at that time.Since then,i''ve learned a great deal. One of the most important thing i''ve learned is how much there is to learn,and how much I don''t yet know. Sometimes I think how grateful i would be today if I had learned more back then about what really matter. In some respects educations is terribly narrow;the only thing I ever learned in school about Napoleons was that  the United States made a Louisianna Purchase from him(On a planet where some 95% of the inhabitants are not Americans,the only history that was thought worth teaching was American history.)In spelling, grammar,the fundamentals of math,and other vital subjects,my teachers did a pretty good job.But there''s no much else I wish they''d taught us.

  2.Perhaps all the deficiencies have since been rectified.It seems to me there are many things(often more a matter of attitude and perception than the simple memorization of facts)that the schools should teach——things that truly would be useful in later life,useful in making a stronger country and a better world,but useful also in making people happier. Human beings enjoy learning. That''s one of the few things that we do better than the other species on our planet. Every student should regulary experience the “Aha!”——when something you never understood,or something you never knew was mystery becomes clear.

  3.So here''s my list:Pick a difficult thing and learn it well

  4.The Greek philosopher Socrates said this was one of the greatest of human joys,and it is. While you learn a little bit about many subjects,make sure you learn a great deal about one or two. It hardly matters what the subject is,as long as it deeply interests you,and you place it in its broader human context. After you teach yourself one subject,you become much more confident about your ability to teach yourself another. You gradually find you''ve acquired a key skill. The world is changing so rapidly that you must continue to teach yourself throughout your life. But don''t get trapped by the first subject that interests you,or the first thing you find yourself good at. The world is full of wonders,and some of them we don''t discover until we''re all grow up. Most of them. sadly,we never discover.

  Don''t be afraid  to ask “stupid” questions.

  5.Many apparently naive inquiries like why grass is green,or why the Sun is round,or why we need 55.000 nuclear weapons in the world ——are really deep questions. The answers can be a gateway to real insights. It''s also important to know,as well as you can,what it is that you don''t know,and asking questions is the way. To ask “stupid” questions requires courage on the part of the asker and knowledge and patience on the part of the answerer. And don''t confine your learning to schoolwork. Discuss ideas in depth with friends. It''s much braver to ask questions even when there''s a prospect of ridicule than to suppress your questions and become deadened to the world around you.

  Listen carefully.

  6.Many conversations are a kind of competition that rarely leads to discovery on either side. When people are talking,don''t spend the time thinking about what you''re going to say next. Instead,try to understand what they''re saying,what experience is behind their remarks,what you can learn from or about them. Older people have grown up in a world very different from yours,one you may not know very well. They. and people from other parts of the country and from other nations,have important perspectives that can enrich your life.

  Everybody makes mistakes

  7.Everybody''s understanding is incomplete. Be open to correction,and learn to correct your own mistakes. The only embarrassment is in not learning from your mistakes.

  Know your planet

  8.It''s the only one we have. Learn how it works. We''re changing the atmosphere,the surface,the waters of the Earth,often for some short-term advantage when the long-term implications are unknow. The citizens of any country should have at least something to say about the direction in which we''re going. If we don''t understand the issues,we abandon the future.

  Science and technology.

  9.You can''t know your planet unless you know something about science and technology. School science courses,I remember,concentrated on the unimportant parts of science,leaving the major insights almost untouched. The great discoveries in modern science are also great discoveries of the human spirit. For example,Copernicus showed that ——far frombeing the center of the universe,about which the Sun,the Moon,the planets,and the stars revolved in clockwise homage——the Earth is just one of many small worlds. This is a deflation of our pretensions,to be sure,but it is also the opening up to our view of a vast and awesome universe. Every high school graduate should have some idea of the insights of Copernicus,Newton,Darwin,Freud,and Einstein. (Einstein''s special theory of relativity,far from being obscure and exceptionally difficult,can be understood in its basics with no more than first-year algebra,and the notion of a rowboat in a river going upstream and downstream.)

  Don''t spend your life watching TV.

  10.You know what I''m Talking about.


  11.Gain some exposure to the great works of liturature,art and music. If such a work is hundreds or thousands of years old and is still admired,there is probably something to it.  Like all deep experiences,it may take a little work on your part to discover what all the fuss is about. But once you make the effort,your life has changed;you''ve acquired a source of enjoyment and excitement for the rest of your days. In a world as tightly connected as ours is,don''t restrict your attention to American or western culture. Learn how and what people elsewhere think. Learn something of their history,their religion,their viewpoints.


  12.Many people believe that we live in an extraordinarily selfish time. But there is a hollowness,a loneliness that comes from living only for yourself. Humans are capable of great mutual compassion,love and tenderness. These feelings,however,need encouragement to grow.

  13.Look at the delight a one-or two- year old takes in learning,and you see how powerful is the human will to learn. Our passion to understand the universe and our compassion for others jointly provide the chief hope for the human race.

Lesson two   Icons

  Heros and Cultural Icons

  Gray Goshgarian

  If you were asked to list ten American heroes and heroines,you would probably name some or all of the following : George Washington,Abraham Lincoln,Daniel Boone,Martin Luther King Jr.,Amelia Earhart,Susan B. Anthony,Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,Helen Keller,Elizabeth Cady Stanton,and Rosa Parks. If next you were asked to list people who are generally admired by society,who somehow seem bigger than life,you might come up with an entirely different list. You might,in fact,name people who are celebrated for their wealth and glamour rather than their achievements and moral strength of character. And you would not be alone,because pollsters have found that people today do not choose political leaders who shape history for their “Most Admired” list,but rather movie and television celebrities,fashion models,professional athletes,and even comic book and cartoon characters. In short media icons.

  By definition,heroes and heroines are men and women distinguished by uncommon courage,achievements,and self-sacrifice made most oftern for the benefit of others——then are people against whom we measure others. They are men and women recognized for shaping our nation's consciousness and development as well as the lives of those who admire them. Yet,some people say that ours is an age where true heroes and heroines are hard to come by,where the very ideal of heroism is something beyond us——an artifact of the past. Some maintain that because the Cold War is over and because America is at peace our age is essentially and unheroic one. Furthermore,the overall crime rate is down,poverty has been eased by a strong and growing economy,and advances continue to be made in medical science. Consequently,bereft of cultural heroes,we have latched onto cultural icons-media superstars such as actors,actresses,sports celebrities,television personalities,and people who are simply famous for being famous.

  Cultural icons are harder to define,but we know them when we see them. They are people who manage to transcend celebrity,who are legendary,who somehow manage to become mythic. But what makes some figures icons and others mere celebrities? That's hard to answer. In part,their lives have the quality of a story. For instance,the beautiful young Diana Spencer who at 19 married a prince,bore a king,renounced marriage and the throne,and died at the moment she found true love. Good looks certainly help. So does a special indefinable charisma,with the help of the media. But nothing becomes an icon more than a tragic and early death——such as Martin Luther King Jr.,John F. Kennedy,and Princess Diana.

  Being Somebody

  Donna Woolfolk Cross

  One hundred years ago,people became famous for what they had achieved. Men like J.P. Morgan,E.H. Harriman and Jay Gould were all notable achievers. So were Thomas Edison,Mark Twain,and Susan B. Anthony.

  Their accomplishments are still evident in our own day. Today's celebrities,however,often do not become known for any enduring achievement. The people we most admire today are usually those who are most highly publicized by the media.

  In 1981,a Gallup poll revealed that Nancy Reagan was the nation's “most admired woman”。 The year before,that distinction went to president Carter's wife,Rosalynn. In fact,the wife of the current president is always one of the nation's most admired women. Today's celebrities,as the writer Daniel Boorstin says,are “people well -known for their well-knownness.”

  To become such a celebrity,one needs luck,not accomplishment. As Boorstin says,“The hero was distinguished by his accomplishment; the celebrity by his image or trademark. The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.”

  There is another distinction: heroes inspire respect; celebrities inspire envy. Few of us believe we could be another Jonas Salk or Eleanor Roosevelt,but we could be another TV  star like Telly Savalas or Suzanne Somers. Except for the attention they get from the media,these people are exactly like us.

  The shift from hero-worship to celebrity-worship occurred around the turn of the century. It was closely tied to the rise of new forms of media-first photography,and later moving pictures,radio and television. For the first time,Americans could see and recognize their heroes. Previously,men like Gould and Harriman,whose names everyone knew,could easily have passed through a crowd without being recognized. The reproduction of photos in newspapers turned famous people into celebrities whose dress,appearance,and personal habits were widely commented upon. Slowly,the focus of public attention began to shift away from knowing what such people did to knowing what they looked like.

  The shift was accelerated by the arrival of moving pictures. Between 1901 and 1914,74 percent of the magazine articles about famous people were about political leaders,inventors,professionals and businessmen. After 1922,however,most articles were about movie stars.

  With the arrival of television,the faces of the stars became as familiar as those we saw across the breakfast table. We came to know more about the lives of the celebrities than we did about most of the people we know personally. Less than seventy years after the appearance of the first moving pictures,the shift from hero-worship to celebrity-worship was complete.

  Today an appearance on a television talk show is the ultimate proof of “making it”in America. Actually,the term “talk show” is misleading. Celebrities do not appear on such a program because of an actual desire——or ability——to talk,but simply to gain recognition,and prove,merely by showing up,that they are “somebody.”

  Being a guest on a talk show does not require qualities of wit,eloquence,brilliance,insight,or intelligence. A former talent coordinator for “the Tonight Show”,says that when he would ask a scheduled guest,“What would you like to talk to the host about?” the reply he got often was,“Have him ask me anything.” This ,he says,usually meant. “I am a typical Hollywood actor,so I have never had an original thought and I have nothing to say of any interest to anyone anywhere.”

  Most hosts are grateful just to get someone who will fill the room with sound. One talk show coordinator comments. “we look for the guest who is sure to talk no matter what. Ten seconds of silence appears very awkward on television; thirty seconds is disastrous. A guest who's got to stop to think about everything he says before the opens his mouth is a ratings nightmare.”

  This kind of attitude rewards smooth,insincere talk,and makes hesitancy look like stupidity.

  “we wouldn't have used George Washington on our show.”says one talent coordinator. “he might have been first in the hearts of his countrymen,but today he'd be dragging his bottom in the ratings.”


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