Last October I attended a Utah Education Association presentation that featured Ken Jennings, the longest running champion of the game show Jeopardy. Mr. Jennings was a dynamic speaker and kept us all entertained with stories about his Jeopardy experience. The most profound part of the presentation occurred when Mr. Jennings answered this series of questions: Why should we learn trivia? Why should we encourage our kids and our students to learn trivia? Why in this age of smart phones, shouldn’t we just google anything and everything that we need to know?
Those are some great questions and I was very curious to hear his answers. Is trivia knowledge now unnecessary or obsolete? It shouldn’t be, according to Mr. Jennings. He said trivia knowledge has tremendous value because it does two things.
First, it increases our sense of wonder with the world. Haven’t you ever watched your seven-year-old’s eyes light up when he learns that sharks travel 40 miles per hour or that wolf spiders eat their mates? This world is amazing and learning about all its complexity just increases the awe we feel each and every day that we get to be apart of it all.
Second, a knowledge of trivia increases our connection with wonderful people from around the world. Knowing that women wear burqas in Saudi Arabia and that burqas were originally banned from the 2012 Olympics means you have a connection when you meet a Saudi woman on a plane flying to Phoenix, Arizona. You also happen to know that Phoenix, Arizona is the home of the Cardinals and that Kurt Warner, the former grocery store clerk turned pro quarterback, played for that team. This can help you start a conversation with the young man you sit next to in the Arizona airport. And who knows what more you could learn or where that conversation could lead.
As parents, we can set a great example for our children in this area. We can share the amazing things that we learn about the Mars Rover Curiosity and encourage them to share with us the cool facts they learn in their reading or in school. Smart phones can never give us the wonder and connection that learning about the world together can.