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Do we need to know trivial facts anymore

August 5, 2013

The other day, my son asked me what sound a giraffe makes. Twenty years ago, that would have been the end of it. I don’t know the answer, so I would have said, “I don’t know.”

Image representing Siri as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Now, he says, “Dad, ask your phone.”

My son is five years old, and as I watch him (and his older sister) live and learn, something occurs to me: they will never be in a situation where they can’t find an answer.

If you’re of a certain age, you can remember talking about that guy in that movie. The answer was on the tip if your tongue. Someone threw our names, you argued, rejected, went quiet. There were some moments in which you never got the answer.

That was then.

Clearly that is no longer a thing. Undoubtably, there is someone in your group who does a Google or IMDB search and voila – that guy was Stephen Tobolowsky, and he just did an AMA on Reddit.

When I was in school, I learned through memorization. As an English and History major, I need to know certain things back then. Interestingly, I don’t really know them now, but I did need to know them then. I could, and still can, kick some ass at Trivial Pursuit. I’m not a liability at the hotly contested Trivia night at the Colgate Inn.

But things are changing. My 5-year-old son has an expectation that our phones have the answers. We’ll need new ways to get him to remember facts. We can’t argue that knowing who won a battle in the war of 1812 is important to know.

Yes, facts are good. I’ll still play trivia. I wonder if my kids will down the road.

Here’s the bigger question: will my kids be taught differently than I was? Should they be?

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