by Mrs. Whatsit
Shortcuts to an education.
One thing I have found out is that how smart or how educated a person is has nothing to do with how many years he spent in school. I have seen plenty of people who graduated from college who don't have the sense God gave a turkey - in other words, they were educated beyond their intelligence - and plenty who stopped even before they graduated from high school who have done an excellent job of educating themselves.
I suppose the necessary quality would be motivation. I'm not sure how anybody would make it through four years of college and still be as, . . .um, unknowing as the day they entered. Or twelve years of high school for that matter. We provide twelve free years of education, or I should say thirteen since kindergarten is now included in most states. I guess we'll always have someone blaming the teachers if a child comes out not knowing how to read.
Let me get off my soapbox and continue with the purpose of this piece, which is to let you know that there are some shortcuts for people who would like to be a little more educated than they are. Lots of people dropped out of school for this reason or that, and now wish they could go back and redeem their learning, but feel like they have too big of a mountain to climb.
As an educator, I can tell you that you do not have to go back and learn every single item that you should have learned in school. In fact, the vast majority of people don't remember most of that information. There are certain things that help a person have an aura of being more learned, and here I have tried to distill this down to its very essence.
1. Build your vocabulary. It may not be fair, but most people judge how educated a person is by the words they use. A Roget's Thesaurus will do the trick, as will any number of vocabulary building books. Also, cut out the curse words. A person with a great store of words to use does not need to rely on vulgar language as a crutch.
Learning a great variety of words will give you more of a store to draw from. People who read a lot tend to have wider vocabularies than those who do not, which is probably how the idea got started that more intellectual you are, the more words you will know.
2. Read out loud from a book. This sounded silly to me when I first heard it. A friend said that he was trying to get some of the "country" out of how he talked and somebody had told him to try this. Oddly enough, it worked. You don't have to come out sounding like a national news anchor, just do it enough to get to where you want to be.
3. Invest in a book of quotations. Find a Bartlett's Familiar Quotations or some similar book. Just read over it. You'll be surprised to find that a lot of familiar sayings came from one of three sources: the Bible, Shakespeare, or Poor Richard's Almanac by Ben Franklin. Just being familiar with all the old saws of the English Language and where they came from will give you a smug feeling. Most people don't know this information.
4. Get one book with a synopsis of each of Shakespeare's plays. I had to take a Shakespeare class in college. Fortunately, I had one of these books that I happened to have picked up. I didn't have time to read the entire plays as they were assigned, so I read the synopsis. This gets the job done! Get familiar with the characters as well as the events. A lot of cultural references are based on Shakespeare.
5. Ditto with the Bible. Even if you don't believe the Bible, it doesn't hurt to be acquainted with the stories in it.
6. Get a GED book and work through it. The GED tends to be looked down on as a secondary, or "Good Enough Diploma." As a GED teacher, I can tell you that if you know enough to pass the GED, you have an education.
7. Read Cliff's Notes or MasterPlots. Get familiar with the characters and plots of most of the major works of literature.
8. Keep up with current events. Read the newspaper. Read the national news. Read all the national news magazines. You can go to the library and do this, they usually will have subscriptions to the major newspapers and magazines. Even though most magazines have a slant, usually liberal, this will teach you to read with an open mind. Take the information that you can use and discard the rest.
9. Know the history of your area. This is history come to life. Knowing about where you live is the very least you should know.
10. Show some curiosity. The more questions you ask, the more you wind up knowing. It's a fact that the smarter a person is, the more he realizes he doesn't know, and therefore asks questions.
You have made a good start by reading my enlightening piece. You're a little smarter already! Now get going! Go learn some stuff.