Eliza Doolittle.


I took today off, but not really. I have webmin and (mostly ridiculous customer request-related) email business to deal with, but as I’m still in my pyjamas while doing it, it’s still a win.

I watched My Fair Lady yesterday. Well, I might have napped for five minutes near the end. I had no idea of its length or hilarity. Because I HAD NOT SEEN IT. Or, if I had, I was practically a fetus because I had absolutely NO recollection of it, beyond recognising some of the songs from other outlets and pretty much knowing the story from end-to-end because it’s just so known a thing that it would be impossible not to. Or is it?

Picture it: An Ottawa high school, 1996.

A frustrated English teacher loses it completely when only three students out of an OAC class of 30-odd people knew who Judas was. This is the latest in a series of mind-boggling displays of ignorance in the class.

He asks if any of them bother reading, looking at art, watching films, or participating in any high culture at all.

He is unbelievably annoyed with his students for ‘just not knowing anything’ because it makes it impossible to teach anything allegorical or, really, anything literary without including an in-depth history, art, philosophy, or other kind of non-English lesson.

Most of the students get offended because he shouldn’t assume that everyone’s religious. Or reads books outside of school. Some (later) get their parents to file complaints.

I wonder how 18-year-olds can get through life not having ever heard of Judas. I *maybe* first heard about him at Sunday School, but it’s far more likely that I knew about him from Monty Python. Or ‘The Golden Girls’. Or in a novel I’ve since forgotten. No high culture involved. Even if all these other students didn’t have a similar upbringing, didn’t they watch ‘The Simpsons’? ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’? Judas comes up all the time, doesn’t he? What are these people using their brains for?

A few months later, the teacher retires, telling folks that he just can’t deal with the youth of ‘today’, who do not value knowledge.

This incident happened almost (yikes) half my lifetime ago, but continues to worry me a lot, as it was indicative of a profound lack of thirst for knowledge and a dearth of curious people. Has this changed? Or am I the weird one, like I was in high school, because I would read atlases and books about Oscar trivia and all sorts of other things because I thought learning about the world was interesting and important? The world is fascinating and huge, so why doesn’t everyone aspire to learn more about it? Is this why, and I’m generalising hugely, many of my cohorts have faded from my memories and, when they pop up on Facebook, really seem awfully boring?

Hell, I found them dull then. By my final year of high school, my circle of friends was tiny and I spent as little time at school as humanly possible (and yet still got an A in OAC English). A misanthrope was born!

For all my nerdery, and embracing of the QI philosophy, as I briefly mentioned the other day, the truly pedantic, hugely well-read, problem-solving, Wikipedia-writing nerds intimidate me almost as much as the uncurious Beige lot do, so I’m not sure I belong in their world either. But, y’know, that might just be tied to not liking to get involved in things in which I am not an expert (in trivia/QI terms, I am so amateur), so I’m trying to embrace that side a bit more. After all, the geek shall inherit the Earth. That’s from the Bible too, right?

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