I don’t know about any of these things

I am a 24-year-old, college-educated, middle class, caucasian male. I graduated from a private University in 2011 with a Bachelors Degree, and I have a little gold sticker on a fancy piece of paper that says “Cum Laude”. In other words, I went to school, studied hard, worked hard, and received a good education like the millions and millions of others just like me. I am writing this post as a representative of a well-educated, accomplished, and motivated slice of the U.S. population. I am concerned right now because I have come to realize that I know very little about the world I live in. I am preparing myself to become an independent, to move out on my own and start taking care of myself without the safety net of parental guidance. As I ready myself to embark on this fateful journey, I am starting to discover that I don’t really know anything.

Despite my education and social standing, I remain more or less in the dark about a lot of things. Here are some things I do not know about; what is going on in Libya, what an Investment Bank does, how Healthcare works, the problem with Social Security, what is going on with the Housing market, what a Mutual Fund is, the conflict in Israel, the conflict in Iran, the consequences of my own college loan debt on the Economy, and plenty more important issues going on in America and around the world.

 

I am not proud to admit that I don’t understand these things. Some of them I even know a little bit about, but if you asked me to explain them to you I wouldn’t be able to. These are questions I would definitely get wrong on a test. As I have said before, though, I am not uneducated, and I am not ignorant. I watch the 6 o’clock news, I read magazines, I surf the web. I am also interested in many other subjects. I spend my Saturdays watching College Football and I study the BCS Rankings like a pollster studies election results. I could recite to you the history of Dave Matthews Band without taking a breath. I could effortlessly rant for twenty minutes about why Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning. I know all of the details of the Lance Armstrong case. I  know far too much about Kim Kardashian. I can name off the top of my head, less than two days after the story broke, who David Petraeus had an affair with. I know all about Don Draper and Walter White, but please don’t ask me about Bain Capital or the Private Sector.

David Petraeus – The newest household name courtesy of news media.

My question here is, where is the disconnect? Was it our education system, are schools focusing on the wrong subjects? Are we learning too much advanced calculus and not enough current events? Was it on me to take Economics, Finance, Government, and International Business courses as a Communications major? Perhaps, instead, it is the media’s fault. The news media doesn’t report on these issues, they report on scandal, disaster, sensation, and celebrity. Maybe I should be reading Time magazine and watching MSNBC, but I’m not sure that will even help. I have been watching the news for the past two hours and so far I have seen reports on David Petraeus and Hurricane Sandy. Two hours of news coverage dedicated to two topics. As a woman once said in a viral YouTube video, “Ain’t nobody got time for that”, and she’s right.

This is what Twitter deemed most important in 2010. The only 2 news stories were disasters.

In our everyday lives we don’t have time to read about or seek further information on all of these complex issues if they aren’t spoon fed for us. Instead we learn about the things that trend on Twitter and get shared on Facebook. We spend our free time debating sports, listening to music, and watching TV shows. I have learned more about current events by watching HBO’s “The Newsroom” than I ever did by watching the actual news. We live in a technology driven and celebrity obsessed world in which important issues fall by the wayside in favor of the latest sex scandal, celebrity breakup, or slanderous political statement. As I become an adult and head out into this terrifying “real world” I’ve heard so much about, I am doing so with a paper thin knowledge of real world issues and a rock solid understanding of pop culture. I am concerned about which information I will be calling on in a few years time and I am worried it will be the former. I am worried that I am going to be scanning bullet lists I find on Google when it comes time to find health insurance, buy a house, or file my taxes. Most of all, however, I’m worried because I know that I’m not alone.

57 thoughts on “I don’t know about any of these things

  1. Firstly, congratulations for noticing this for yourself. Many never do. Ever.

    Secondly, as I’m sure many of the other comments also say, it’s really not that unusual to come out of higher education knowing next to nuts about what’s going on with the rest of the world. I was the same. I read Law and did ‘mooting’ and debated the finer points of all sorts of high brow ideas. I could spout for hours about all sorts of stuff that was ‘important’. When I graduated at 21 years old I ‘knew’ how to put the world to rights. My ignorance was bliss.

    Thirdly, remember your purpose for being at university was to suck up as much info as possible and pass exams. That’s why you were there. You would have gone postal if you hadn’t had some ‘pop’ downtime! Of course, it would great if we could also keep up with everything else in the world at the same time, but here’s an interesting fact: in the 1900s the average person, in their whole lives, would be exposed to about as much new information as is contained in just one day’s copy of The Times. We have major info overload now. It’s impossible to be an expert on everything. Cut yourself some slack! You’ll get there. And yes, ‘the media’ is very selective. The good news is that more people’s eyes are open to this fact now. In any case, you can still make choices about where you get your information from and what you pay attention to. You can choose to defy the pied piper. As mentioned, The Economist is indeed a very good start. It’s not the only source though and I know you’ll find you way!

    Good luck!

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