The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Knowledge for knowledge’s sake is more useful than expected

A few nights ago, as we got ready to watch “Inception,” my friends Emilee, Jessica and I realized we’re the worst kind of stereotypical Americans.

The three of us are smart cookies, but we know next to nothing about the rest of the world. We decided to test our knowledge by taking a blank map of Europe and seeing how many of the countries we could name.

Emilee suggested we use the website “Sporcle,” which provides quizzes in all kinds of topics, from literature to entertainment to geography. For the next eight minutes, we rattled off every Slavic republic and land-locked city state we could think of.

We ended up getting 39 of the 47 countries; not bad, perhaps, by American standards, but somewhere there’s a French guy in a beret shaking a baguette at us in disgust.

Perhaps to make ourselves feel better, we decided to explore “Sporcle” a little more and took the “Harry Potter Name Chain” quiz. We did significantly better on that, although we did get stumped by which Hufflepuff student was petrified by the basilisk (Justin Finch-Fletchley). And thus began our three hour quiz-taking extravaganza.

We spent most of our time in literature. We guessed books by their opening lines, by their main characters and by their covers.

I particularly enjoyed the quiz “Literature FMLs,” which featured such gems as: “Today, I found my girlfriend dead so I poisoned myself. Turns out she was only sleeping” (Romeo and Juliet); “Today, on my 30th birthday, I was arrested. I have no idea what for” (The Trial); and my personal favorite, “Today, I waited to meet someone. He didn’t come. The same thing happened yesterday. FML” (Waiting for Godot).

Now, I know what you’re thinking—these kids know how to party. But it was actually a surprisingly enjoyable way to spend a Saturday night.

Knowledge is fun. There’s nothing better than having read a great book—except, perhaps, reading a great book—and being able to talk about it with friends. When a clever person on the web has found a way to parody social media at the same time, it’s even better.

So much of our learning as college students is based on utility. It’s about helping us find jobs when we graduate so we can make lots of money and get good health benefits. If we can’t see a concrete use for a fact, we often write it off as a waste of time.

But there’s another side to learning, one that has absolutely no application to the real world. It’s about the excitement you feel when you come across an idiosyncratic fact from history—which, in the case of my Soviet Revolution class, has far too often included disturbing details about Rasputin’s genitalia.

It’s about making the connection between two seemingly unrelated fields, like when my friend Joseph finds a way to move effortlessly from string theory to classical philosophy. It’s about exploring the world and learning for the sake of learning.

When I graduate, I will know all kinds of things. Many of them, like how to scan a Shakespearean text, I’ll be able to apply directly to my work. But I’ll also know about the giant wart on the end of Rasputin’s penis, which will come in handy only when I’m out with friends at the Ginger Man Pub and have had a pint too many of Old Rasputin Imperial Stout.

True story.

Nathaniel French is a senior theater major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

More to Discover