I majored in history in college. I am a political junkie (as evidenced by all my posts in the Elections board) with a detailed knowledge of current political arcana as well as U.S. political history. So I was excited that my 16 year old son was assigned to do “domestic extemp” for the speech competition, which would apparently focus on U.S. politics (I say “apparently” because although I was aggressively recruited for forensics in high school, I was way too much of a slacker to sign up). He already knows quite a bit about it, and he and I enjoy discussing and debating the subject.
But then a senior decided he wanted to do domestic, which meant my son had to take international with ten days notice before the meet. My son emailed a big “Help!”, expecting me to be a knowledgeable source, like I am on the other topics we tend to discuss.
My blood froze.
I do know quite a bit about the history of the French and Russian revolutions, and about 20th century European and Soviet history. But my knowledge of the current international scene is, I suddenly realized, limited to the stuff that gets a lot of attention in U.S. political debates. I made a count of how many current world leaders I could name, and it was pathetic: Canada’s Trudeau; Germany’s Merkel; France’s Hollande; Syria’s Assad; Cuba’s (Raul) Castro. That’s it. I don’t even know who the president of Mexico is, for chrissakes. (I know the PM of the UK is a Tory, and that the Labour Party has been taken over by a comically stereotypical left winger, but I couldn’t name them…one of them is Jeremy something, maybe?) My wife consoled me with “well, most Americans wouldn’t even know that many”, but I found that cold comfort, as I consider that a low bar to clear.
My son is about to find out his “know it all” dad doesn’t know it all, after all.