But for whatever reason, I was thinking this weekend about things one ought to know before being turned out into the world to college or work of basic training of wherever it is that you head off to at eighteen. This is a pretty rough list, and I'd love to see what else readers would suggest. It's not so much meant to be a sum-and-total of necessary education, but sort of a minimum required list for being civilized and functional.
By the time you leave home at 18 you should:
- Read two out of these three: The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid
- Read four of Plato's dialoges including Apology and Phaedo.
- Have read all books of the Bible at least once.
- Read Augustine's Confessions.
- Read Beowulf
- Read at least one of the volumes of the Divine Comedy (Inferno or Purgatorio would be the recommended choices).
- Read Introduction To The Devout Life.
- Read The Little Flowers of St. Francis and The Little Way of St. Therese.
- Read Brideshead Revisited and Lord of the Rings.
- Read C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves.
- Read at least one novel by each of the following: Dickens, Austen, Dostoyevski
- Read/see at least four Shakespeare plays including Hamlet and Macbeth.
- Read the Constitution of the United States.
- See Citizen Kane, The Third Man, Casablanca, The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge Over the River Kwai, Chinatown and at least one Hitchcock movie.
- Know how to calculate the profit and loss and balance sheets of a small business.
- Know the basics of how a relational database works (e.g. a database with order, order detail, products, and customer tables)
- Know the basics of how to use excel.
- Know how to calculate compound interest.
- Know how to replace a hard drive, add additional RAM and reinstall an operating system on a computer.
- Speak a foreign language well enough to communicate on a basic level.
- Know how to drive a manual transmission car.
- Know how to change a tire and change your oil.
- Know how to operate basic power tools safely and build simple furniture (like a bookshelf or table).
- Know how to cook at least five different meals.
- Know how to do your own laundry.
- Know how to shoot and clean a rifle and handgun.
- Be able to run mile in under nine minutes.
- Memorize the Nicene and Apostle's Creeds, the Gettysburg Address and at least one piece of poetry longer than 100 lines.
I can't claim to have done all this stuff by the time I was 18, but I never claimed to be fully civilized or fully functional. Still, I wish I had done all this stuff by 18, and it doesn't seem impossible to do so.
MrsDarwin adding on here:
By the time you leave home at 18 you should:
- Know how to change a diaper
- Be able to bake a loaf of bread from scratch
- Hear Handel's Messiah, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony
- Know the table of elements
- Be able to start and to finish a conversation politely
- Be able to compose a thank you note, a letter of sympathy, an essay, and a job application
- Know how to read music, and play at least one instrument
- Understand how the human reproductive system works (both male and female)
- Have spoken in public at least once
- Know how to lay a fire
- Know how to thread a sewing machine and sew a straight stitch, and know how to sew on a button by hand
- Have nurtured a simple vegetable or flower garden
- Know how to set a table and use a cloth napkin
- Know how to draw basic three-dimensional shapes
By popular demand:
- Know how to balance a checkbook
Opinionated Homeschooler has some good thoughts on the list.
Also, to clarify a bit -- wanting to keeping the post down to something like a vaguely reasonable length, I tried to make some decisions about scope that would make sense. For instance, I think everyone should have read Winnie The Pooh, but since most people do this by the age of eight, I left it off. Other things, I assumed were covered by higher level items. So I assumed that between calculating compound interest and being able to produce a simple balance sheet, you must therefore also know how to manage checking and savings accounts and deal with a credit car or home loan.
The list was also pretty clearly a Catholic list. If you weren't Catholic, St. Francis, St. Therese and St. Francis de Sales would drop off, though I think anyone in Western Culture would do well to read the Bible, Augustine and Dante.
Opinionated Homeschooler is dead right in adding some Aquinas plus math through calculus (sorry MrsDarwin) to the list, as well as knowing the rules to football, baseball and poker.
The great stumbling block for me was trying to think of what you ought to know about science. Some things are so basic it seemed hardly worth mentioning: Know the names and the order of the nine planet. But the tricky thing with science is that it's not based on a few basic seminal works that you to understand the field. That's what strikes me as the weak point of great books programs where science education consists of reading Origin of Species, Newton's Principia, and several of Einstein's seminal papers. Reading "great works" of science is certainly helpful, but it doesn't really get you there.
I continue to be stumped by the science angle, so I'd be eager to hear suggestions -- seeing as some of our readers know a great deal more about science than I do. The one thing I'm pretty sure at this point should go on is:
- Be able to explain and use Newton's universal laws of motion.