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An Education

Discussion in 'All-Star Threads' started by Senna Vs. Prost, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. Senna Vs. Prost

    Senna Vs. Prost
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    My little brother is a smart kid, about to graduate high school this year with a 4.0 GPA, prospects to play football in college (despite only having 2 seasons of experience) and lots of solid extracurriculars. The problem is, he's had little exposure to the real world. He went to a Jewish private school from Kidergarten until sophomore year of HS, when he transferred to a public school that is largely Jewish and upper-class WASPy kids. He has a fleeting interest in history, but his main past times are football, UFC, boxing and XBOX. I don't want to call him merely "booksmart" because he's an intelligent and well-traveled kid, but he hasn't read a lot, and hasn't been exposed to a lot of "big ideas" so to speak.

    FOCUS: What books, movies, blogs etc would you want to expose him to, for the purposes of a "cultural education". What would you add or remove? So far I have;

    Books:

    The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
    The Closing of the American Mind
    A Man In Full
    A Confederacy of Dunces
    Liars Poker
    BAD/Class (Paul Fussell)
    Unprotected
    Intellectuals
    The Great Gatsby

    Blogs
    Phila Lawyer
    Ryan Holiday
    Clusterfuck Nation
    Umair Haque
    Zero Hedge

    And of course The Entire George Carlin Youtube Collection
     
  2. Dcc001

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    Not so much a suggestion of what to expose him to, but rather what not to expose him to.

    If possible, try to get him to cut out any and all advertising (television, radio, etc).

    Hear me out.

    For roughly eleven months last year I didn't watch one minute of television, see one movie or hear a radio station. When I came back and was exposed to it again it was almost physically assaulting. It wasn't until I had eliminated it from my life that I realized how overpowering advertising is, and how we (as a culture) become so desensitized to it. I literally had to shut off televisions and radios because I just couldn't take the yelling and the message that "You NEED this NOW!" they were spewing out.

    During my self-imposed exile, I was reading a ridiculous amount, like one book per day. Plus, I was far more social than I had ever been. All my interactions had to be face-to-face with real people! Imagine that, eh? That year saw more growth as an individual than I could ever have imagined, and I'm not someone who would have been considered 'green' prior to the trip. By eliminating all the auditory and visual garbage you actually have space to see truly interesting and insightful things, plus your brain isn't in overdrive trying to desensitize you just so you can function.

    If at all possible, and how this would be accomplished in North America or someplace similar I don't know, try to get him to tune out. Then he'll have more chance of being able to focus on the interesting stuff.
     
  3. PoppaBear

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    And in the other corner of the ring, Keynes. His General Theory is a cornerstone of modern economic action (in the US). He has a lot of critics, but I would say that he is just as important as Friedman. I would recommend him reading him after an introductory course in economics--If he likes the subject. If not, then he should invest his time in something he thinks as more important, as it is pretty wordy.

    Schumpeter is another prominent economist he could read.
     
  4. hiphopguru

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    Books:
    Hatchet (Hell anything Gary Paulsen)
    Catcher in the Rye
    Shiloh
    Snow in August


    Music:
    Nas
    The Pogues
    Nirvana

    Movies:
    John Q
    The Shawshank Redemption
    Blow


    Man I'm going to have to come back and work on this...
     
  5. PoppaBear

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    Another opinion, this time on what to take in college: Math. At least Calc I and II, III definitely recommended. Differential Equations is also recommended. It just gives you another set of tools to attack problem solving with in the future.

    I am still in university, but I can tell you this much: it is much easier to take a math course, and learn about economics/sociology through books than it is to take an economics/sociology course and learn math through books; of course it can be done, but you really need the practice and rigor of a course, with problem sets, to learn math.

    If you end up independently learning a topic like multivariable calculus, usually you read the book without doing practice problems (If you did this to study for a test, you'd fail, so I feel that if you did this to learn, you'd fail). You don't need practice problems to learn the knowledge from Keynes' or Friedman's books.

    Again, I'm still in university, but this is my view on picking classes.
     
  6. clb

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    Buy him a subscription to The Economist. It's without doubt the best way to get up to speed on global geopolitical news.
     
  7. redbullgreygoose

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    Television is a huge part of our culture just like anything else. Watching Peter Griffin fight in a Chicken suit may not be the same as seeing the sistine chapel. But it is what it is.
     
  8. bennyl

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    I actually know the kid in question in real life (although I haven't seen him in a few years) and he's gonna be fine.

    I think people forget what they were like when they were younger. I have grown to really appreciate math and if I could go back to start my university education again, I would probably be a math specialist. But I am saying that knowing what I know now. When I finished high school I never wanted to see calculus again.

    Someone said read the Great Gatsby. I agree, because I loved that book. Someone else said read Catcher in the Rye. I think Holden Caulfield is a whiny ass, and that Catcher isn't all that important to anyone once you stop hating your parents for giving you a curfew. But fundamentally, I think that what you read isn't who you are, and that as you grow and develop you will, well, grow and develop. A list of books will at best help influence you, but can just as easily turn you off of something by making it feel as if these books/blogs/whatever are being forced on you. I would say be especially wary of recommendations for books that should be read with a teacher to guide you through it (e.g. all of the economics stuff listed).

    Focus:

    The New Yorker - best magazine around for short fiction, quality reporting, and the best writing you will find just about anywhere
    Calculus by Michael Spivak - Despite what I just wrote about books that need a teacher, this is the greatest math book ever written. Math is important. Get this book... and a teacher, I guess. Do the problems

    anti-focus: The economist. Whoever said that confused things that help you develop as a person with knowing the political situation in Zambia. There are more important things than a sickeningly boring magazine of advocacy journalism (caveat: I have a subscription to the economist).
     
  9. Degenerate

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    These are the types of threads that brought about some great posts on the old board.

    A couple books:

    Freakonomics
    Sperm Wars
    A Brief History of Nearly Everything

    And that series the BBC put together called Planet Earth might be something he would dig.
     
  10. sunny jim

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    'a public school that is largely Jewish and upper-class WASPy kids'
    you realize wasp = white anglo saxon protestant don't you?

    I would encourage him to get out of his milieu both intellectually and physically.Get into some street life (perhaps charity) and read about lives unlike his. Bukowski and more modern writers, but stuff like that.I think privileged kids like this need to entertain the idea that they are largely lucky, rather than deserving.

    Good luck, it's a nice thing to be doing for him.
     
  11. Bob the Builder

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    Books:

    Man's Search for Meaning. One of the best books I have ever read.
    Darkness Visible by William Styron. Perhaps only important to me because of my history, but probably the best book about depression ever.
    Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell. One of the few books that has choked me up (read: cried a little).
     
  12. TPapp

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    Make sure he reads Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, the principles of which can be applied to being successful in any capacity, not just accruing a vast fortune.
     
  13. Senna Vs. Prost

    Senna Vs. Prost
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    Ben, you're way off base. The Economist is great, and while they are advocates, their positions make a lot of sense. They also cover issues you won't see in a lot of North American newspapers. I have a subscription and my brother reads it. With that said, I think I almost prefer the Wall Street Journal, or the dreaded Liberal rag, the NY Times.
     
  14. ghettoastronaut

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    Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! Adventures of a Curious Character

    What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character

    Because for all these recommendations about math and science and economics, the lad is going to have to know how to be a brilliant scientist and still get laid.

    I'd also recommend some Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Paritcularly the Hitchens.
     
  15. iczorro

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    Everyone else can point out all the serious shit that should help form the ideal person. I'm more of a humor/fantasy guy.

    Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Read it for the first time when I was 14 or so, one of my all time favorite series.

    Damn near any one of Piers Anthony's series. The corny, punny Xanth stuff, Bio of a Space Tyrant, Incarnations of Immortality, etc...

    Dave Barry's early stuff, before all he talked about was turning 50 and such.

    The complete Calvin and Hobbes.

    I've got four going on five large bookshelves packed ass full, and my kids, if I ever have any, will have free reign of them.
     
  16. untouchable

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    Books/blogs/movies can be a start, but I don't think they're really going to change the way a rich, sheltered and successful kid views the world. Take him to a homeless shelter to volunteer and actually talk to the homeless people. Force him to get a job that involves a lot of hard work and manual labor. Tell him to take a year off after high school to travel to Europe and learn how to fend for himself. Ultimately, it's up to him if he wants to challenge himself or stay on the path he's on that has treated him well.
     
  17. Senna Vs. Prost

    Senna Vs. Prost
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    He actually volunteers at a soup kitchen on Thursdays, and went to Guatemala by himself at 16 to work in a warehouse and learn Spanish (not in a classroom, might I add). He's not doing too badly, I just want to give him a kind of alternative canon beyond reading 1984 and Brave New World in school.
     
  18. toytoy88

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    Wow.

    Maybe I'm showing my age here, but who cares what he reads or watches? When I was growing up it was about what you experienced yourself. Being well rounded in reading was certainly important, but getting out and actually experiencing life from the bubble you were raised in was much more important.

    Reading exposes you to lots of new thoughts, but many people think that equates life experience and they allow the thoughts of the writer to form their own opinion about life without ever having gone out and experiencing it first hand.

    The kid sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders and reading a bunch of books isn't going to make a damn bit of difference as to whether he ends up a captain of industry or wandering the streets of Calcutta searching for the meaning of life and eating fish heads.

    If he's sharp he'll right the ship in time, it may list from side to side every now and then but he'll figure it out.
     
  19. Crown Royal

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    Books:
    Gravity's Rainbow
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Frankenstein
    The Purpose Driven Life (just kidding. It's the stupidest fucking book in the history of the universe)

    Movies:
    Citizen Kane
    On the Waterfront
    The Thin Blue Line (best documentary ever made PERIOD.)
    The Godfather
    Lawrence of Arabia

    ...off the top of my head.
     
  20. bennyl

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    This.
    Maybe it's 4 years of studying economics, but the Economist has a worldview I disagree with. But that's not really the point. The economist is great in that no one else writes about IR stuff from a bunch of countries I never think about. I don't know, however, if it is so great in making you a more well rounded or thoughtful person. I guess reading it lets you have a conversation about some obscure political situation without properly understanding the context of said situation, but maybe I just don't value being able to do that as highly as I should.

    A list of good books to read is a fantastic thing. But I don't think it really does much for who you are. Personal development takes time, and if I could go back to my high school self I would say become a math specialist in university. But grade 12 me would have laughed in my face. Understanding the beauty of the subject took time and the right set of circumstances. All that personal development stuff is something that people find on their own.