How much ‘stuff’ do we need to know?

I read regularly that now we have access to information at our finger tips we don’t need to focus so much on remembering facts because we can always look them up. So…

How much ‘stuff’ do we need to ‘know’ to be able to be fully functioning in society as an educated human being?

What are the facts we need to know and what facts are dispensible?

Is general understanding on a broad base and look up the details if required our goal?

Most of the interesting and educated folks I know actually ‘know’ a lot of stuff and can draw on that in a variety of situations and contexts. The broad fundamental knowledge allows them to think critically and challenge ideas and assumptions because they have a strong knowledge in a range of areas. Are the ‘higher order skills’ enabled because they have a strong fundamental knowledge of a broad range of areas?

For me I think it is the balance between the ‘higher order skills’ and the ‘memorising’ that we have got wrong with far too much emphasis on memorising – particularly in areas like the HSC. But I think there is also a big risk in downplaying the importance of ‘knowing’ things and as usual for me I come to think that there should be a nice spot in the middle. Enough facts and basic skills to be able to develop the ‘higher order skills’.

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