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What constitutes general knowledge?

  1. Nov 19, 2013 #1
    Wikipedia says it a collection of culturally valued knowledge. What exactly is culturally valued?

    These are the types of questions generally asked: -
    1) Name of the nth U.S. president
    2) Location of some river or place
    3) Birthdate of some famous person
    etc.

    Why are these questions "culturally valued"?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2013 #2
    I don't think that term, "culturally valued," is well used here. "General knowledge" is, by necessity, going to be culture-specific. I think they should merely have said that and avoided the confusion of claiming it's about what's culturally valued.

    A Ubangi tribesman might be determined to have a high degree of general knowledge within the Ubangi culture, but his range of knowledge will be quite different than a Siberian villager with a high degree of general knowledge. To say the particular knowledge is culturally valued as opposed to merely culture-specific strikes me as a red herring.
     
  4. Nov 19, 2013 #3

    AlephZero

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    The phrase "culturally valued" seems to give the wrong set of associations, if you take "culture" as meaning things like fine art, classical music, etc.

    I think you could define "general knowledge" as things that a well-educated (or well-informed) person would be expected to know. As zooby said, the specific things depend very much on the society (or culture) the person is living in. That applies in the first world just as much as in Zooby's examples. There is not much overlap between the general knowledge that British and American citizens have about a topic like "the civil war", for example (most likely, they would not even be referring to the same war).
     
  5. Nov 19, 2013 #4

    Evo

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    I agree with the above. I always considered general knowledge as being "well rounded" or "well read", knowing a lot in general about the world.

    You might like this article

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/n...knowledge-has-changed-1980-2012/#.UouU9dLUD_I

     
  6. Nov 19, 2013 #5

    arildno

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    Hmm..whether valued or not, I'd say that "general knowledge", within a particular culture is a rough minimum criterion amongst the socially/culturally dominant group, in order to label those lacking in GK as ignoramuses.
     
  7. Nov 19, 2013 #6
    Having pondered this a bit, I don't think so. "General knowledge" in my view, is more often than not, anti-elitist rather than elitist. People who acquire general knowledge are eager to step outside their specific niche and objectively examine what other people in other niches are up to. You can't do that effectively if you have the attitude your niche, or shall we say, inertial frame, should be preferred over all others.
     
  8. Nov 19, 2013 #7
    I have never been good at GK quizzes so this was my attempt to understand what actually constitutes general knowledge.
    So how do you decide what a well-educated person should know?
    Well I think there is some truth to this. One part of general knowledge is to know about the latest movies, songs etc. I never followed that. So when I was unable to talk about such topics around people, I was indeed labeled as "ignoramus".
     
  9. Nov 19, 2013 #8

    Evo

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    I think that you will find a lot of people that don't consider a knowledge of "pop culture" important. This is probably more true as you get older.
     
  10. Nov 19, 2013 #9

    Ryan_m_b

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    I always try to distinguish between general knowledge and trivia. The former I'd say is a range of information that is practical for your society, some things cross cultural boundaries (how to change a tyre) whilst others aren't (how much sales tax is). Trivia is a range of facts that, whilst culturally relevant, are not particularly useful, names of presidents, winners of sports tournaments and certain aspects of geography might fall under this.
     
  11. Nov 19, 2013 #10

    Evo

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    Good answer!
     
  12. Nov 19, 2013 #11

    Nugatory

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    You misspelled "wiser".
     
  13. Nov 19, 2013 #12

    D H

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    For example, "What did John Locke say?" versus "What does the fox say?"
     
  14. Nov 19, 2013 #13

    Evo

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    LOL.

    Too funny.
     
  15. Nov 19, 2013 #14
    1)To know the names of a few well known presidents of the the US makes sense,if not all.
    2)instead of 'some' i would like important(historically significant or politically or financially significant)places and rivers (Nile,Indus,Yellow river etc)
    3) i am not sure about exact birth dates but at least we must know their names ,their major contributions and the century they were born in.
     
  16. Nov 19, 2013 #15

    Pythagorean

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    Knowing the key strategies and techniques of modern warfare as well as having a picture of the political and diplomatic atmosphere under which you direct your soldiers and the ability to direct them unquestioningly.
     
  17. Nov 19, 2013 #16
    There is a big difference between being up on the latest films that are popular within a certain youth subculture simply because you're a member of that subculture, and knowing something about film. The former is not a part of "general knowledge". Similarly, I know practically nothing about the popular music of the past 5 years, but my general knowledge of music is high for a non-musician. Some teenager whose knowledge of music is limited to the top 40 of the past five years can't be said to have a high degree of general knowledge about music. See the distinction? That teenager could treat you like an ignoramus for not knowing the currently popular group, Betty Bokeh and the Circles of Confusion, but this doesn't mean that teenager has authentically high general knowledge about music.
     
  18. Nov 20, 2013 #17
    I would say "general knowledge" consists of things you don't need to know in order to do your job, pursue a serious hobby or just get by in living your life. It's taken as a sign of erudition in social circles that value erudition.
     
  19. Nov 20, 2013 #18
    Of course you don't need general knowledge to be living your life but I was just asking because I don't understand what is it.

    I'm confused by the word "general". How do you even classify "general"? It seems as if it depends on age, country, environment etc. For some people pop culture is general knowledge while for some political awareness is important etc.
     
  20. Nov 20, 2013 #19
    "General" is, obviously, as opposed to "specific". Knowledge limited to pop culture can't be called "general,". It's specific. A person with "general knowledge" is one who knows something about a wide range of subjects. The wiki article you mentioned has a list:

    Art
    Biology
    Classical music
    Cookery
    Discovery and exploration
    Fashion
    Film
    Finance
    Games
    General science
    Geography
    History
    History of science
    Literature
    Medicine
    Music
    Politics
    Popular music
    Sport
    Television

    A person who has a good basic grasp of all these subjects has "general" knowledge.
     
  21. Nov 20, 2013 #20
    Thank you all for great answers.
    I don't know why I was so eager to know what is "general knowledge". But now I know what it is.

    EDIT: I would also like to ask why most people test general knowledge with trivia? If its about music, I appreciate its beauty, I kind of know how it works, heard some popular ones and I enjoy it. But I wouldn't be considered having a good grasp on it till I answer some factual questions.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
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