Core Knowledge

I have been reading quite a bit lately about the new national curriculum standards (which have thus-far been adopted by 48 states), as well as about how college students come ill-prepared and graduate un-educated. Inspired by The Other Dunwoody, I have decided to write my own education-related lists of “what to do” and “what needs to be done” featuring as much justification and validation as I see fit. Like the other author, if this post proves to be particularly popular in terms of hits, I will be more than happy to elaborate. I may even elaborate if I think of additional items, which is a distinct possibility.


By the age of twenty-two (the “standard” age for college graduation), everyone should function at the following levels:

    • Should be able to change a tire, and check the oil in a car.
    • Should know how to balance a checkbook.
    • Should know how to cook at least a dozen healthful meals.
    • Should know how to sew on a button or a patch.
    • Should know how to keep a house clean, including how frequently bed sheets should be washed or how to iron a collared shirt.
    • Should know proper (table) manners including place settings and when/how to write thank-you notes.
    • Should know about the different kinds of IRA, 401(k)’s, and other (investment) retirement plans.
    • Should know how to make, balance, and stick to a budget.
    • Should know about different kinds of insurance and when insurance (for example, life insurance) is necessary.
    • Should know about different kinds of wills
    • Should know how to fill out tax forms.
    • Should be fluent in English.
    • Should be fluent (at least be able to read fluently) in at least one language besides English.
    • Should have a strong base in at least one other language beyond the first two bullets.
    • Should know what languages are spoken (officially or otherwise) in which countries.
    • Should be able to perform the following operations correctly and efficiently without the use of a calculator or computer:
      • Times-tables (i.e., up to 12×12) multiplication and division problems.
      • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions.
      • Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals.
      • Compute unit conversions–including units used predominantly in the metric system.
      • Read a number line, table, bar graph, pie chart, or other statistical display.
      • Know area and volume formulas for traditional shapes and solids.
      • Know the difference between area and surface area, and area and lateral surface area. Know what “girth” and “cross-sections” mean.
    • Should be able to complete “basic” algebra problems, including solving for unknown variables.
    • Should be knowledgeable in exponents and logarithms–at the very least, in order to calculate (continuously) compound interest scenarios.
    • (While could go in a “common sense” or “philosophy” section) Should know the basics of (symbolic) logic. Should know how to negate a statement. Should be able to complete truth tables.
    • Should know the basic structure of our federal government including how long terms are, who appoints whom, etc.
    • Should know the names of the current president/vice-president, members of the Supreme Court, and members of the cabinet and legislative leaders (speaker of house, majority leader, etc.)
    • Should know the names of the current senators for their state of residence, as well as the current representative for their area.
    • Should know how many electoral votes their state carries, and how electoral votes are cast.
    • Should have read the Constitution “cover-to-cover.” Should, for instance, be able to say what each amendment does.
    • Should know the tenets of main political movements and structures (examples: democracy, communism).
    • Should know the names of the current “major world leaders” (at the very least, the names of the leaders of the countries that occur in current news articles).
    • Should know all the major organs of the body and what function they perform.
    • Should know the names of major bones of the body.
    • Should know the names and symptoms of the most common (fatal?) diseases, as well as (if applicable) means of transmission.
    • Should know the names and intended uses of the most commonly-prescribed medications.
    • Should know the names of medical specialists (e.g., nephrologist, podiatrist) and what specifically they do.
    • Should have written a research paper (at least 20 pages).
    • Should have written precis and/or articles.
    • Should have been exposed (through both reading and composition) to the main types of writing genres including descriptive, persuasive, narrative, poetic, and expository writing.
    • Should know the difference between formal and colloquial grammar/writing and when to use which.
    • Should know the main structures and pieces of grammar. Should know, for example, what a “subordinate clause” is or a “preposition.”
    • Should have read cover-to-cover at least 150 “works.” This includes collections of poems, novels, plays, short-story anthologies, philosophical treatises and the like.
    • Should know the location of all 50 states, as well as names of state capitals.
    • Should be able to locate approximately 40% (minimum) of foreign countries on a map. Should also know the capitals of these countries. This includes all countries whose names or leaders come up in current news reels.
    • Should be able to read a map.

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