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A Few Things Everybody Should Know

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With yesterday being the Fourth of July, I once again used the occasion to remind my young grandchildren of some of the things they need to know if they wish to consider themselves “informed citizens.”

Actually, me giving this lecture has become something of a family tradition. Excruciatingly tedious and self-righteous in many regards, but a tradition nonetheless. Grandpa talks, and the kids listen (or respectfully pretend to listen). I like to think that we’re all working off the premise that it’s never too early to begin an education.

Here are some of the things I’ve long insisted are important to know. Granted, the list consists solely of my own choosing, and is, therefore, wildly subjective, but the case can be made that all of it is worth knowing.

We should all know the approximate population of the earth. It’s our world. Shouldn’t we know how many people live in it? The earth’s population is approximately 7.5 billion. So if my grandkids happen to be on the playground one day, and a little girl casually says, “Hey, I wonder how many people live on the earth,” they can tell her.

Another thing kids need to know is how many countries there are. There are just a shade fewer than 200 countries in the world. The top three most populous are China (with roughly 1.38 billion), India (with 1.34 billion), and the U.S. (with 326 million). It’s estimated that India will blow by China within a decade.

The three largest countries, in land mass, are: Russia, Canada, and the U.S.

The three most spoken languages are: Mandarin, Spanish, and English.

People like to pretend that the U.S. is the “most heavily taxed” country in the world, but it isn’t even in the Top Ten. You’ll want to tuck that little piece of information away for further use.

I tell the grandkids that when they get old enough to pay attention to government affairs, they will need to memorize some stuff. They will need to memorize the names of their state assemblyman, their state senator, their congressman, and their two U.S. senators.

I’ve tried to impress upon them the fact that if they ever want to “talk politics” with somebody, and wish be taken seriously, it behooves them to at least know whom they are talking about.

After all, you can’t go around ranting about Congress consisting of nothing but liars, thieves, hypocrites, and swine, and not even know the name of your own congressman. Well, actually you can do that. In fact, that’s what most people do. But you will find that it helps your argument immensely if you can accurately identify some of those “bad people” you’re talking about.

And finally, we should all know why we have seasons. The short, simple answer is because the earth tilts on its axis. In summer it tilts toward the sun, and in winter it tilts away from it. It’s surprising how few adults know this.

As a parting comment, I tell my grandkids that there are lots of good, honest, hard-working men and women in the United States who, for whatever reason, don’t know any (or much) of this stuff. Not knowing this stuff doesn’t mean they’re dumb. In fact, they can even be really smart. All it means is that they’re ignorant.

And then I tell the kids that we have a name for such people. Of course, this piques their curiosity. “Tell us, grandpa,” they cry. “Tell us what these people are called.” They’re called “voters,” I answer. Happy Fourth of July, kids! God bless America! Now who wants pie?

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David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

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