Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"An educated man must have a certain minimum of general knowledge" -- Robert Conquest

"It's true, old boy, I know all that ballyhoo."

"An educated man must have a certain minimum of general knowledge. Even if he knows very little about science and cannot add or subtract, he must have heard of Mendel and Kepler. Even if he is tone deaf he must know something about Debussy and Verdi; even if he is a pure sociologist he must be aware of Circe and the Minotaur, of Kent and Montaigne, of "Titus" Oates and Tiberius Gracchus. It will be seen that I am not being very demanding. But I have come across cases in which these names, or their equivalents, have been unknown to undergraduates, or on occasions, graduates of the present-day universities. It is not a question of useless or obsolete knowledge learned by rote but of, at lowest, reference points without which it is impossible to navigate the seas of our culture. It is the sort of information which in any ordinary society the educated have observed without special effort. It would have been taken for granted with the stupid rich who cluttered up the universities in the pre-war Dark Ages [i.e., in the 1920s and 1930s]. Now there are supposedly educated men who are by this very simple and basic test virtually illiterate. A wide diversity of ideas, many merely voguish and picked up from television, replace a proper training in the thought and history of the western world."
-- Robert Conquest, 1969

"I am just going outside and may be some time."

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