Appreciate that languages change over time; that they are in a constant flux; that there is no Platonic Form of (or “Queen’s”) English. All you have to do is watch Shakespeare:
Appreciate that different languages express thoughts in different ways – to this end, learn a second language, absorb its grammar, it will open your ears. Appreciate that even in globalized world, language is an important marker of identity for people. Google the Chomskyan Revolution in Linguistics and read Stephen Pinker on the subject:
Finally, see my post on the dangers of Linguistic Determinism
By science I do not mean scientific knowledge* but the scientific method. It’s our best tool for making sense of the world. Observation, the experiment, Occam’s Razor, Popper’s falsification.
(*Chemistry. Biology. Physics. Maths. All wonderful. But they have enough people defending their camps. Personally, I’d argue no one should leave school with no knowledge of Newton. But, I decided I’d stick to one scientific idea and that one was gonna be evolution)
Here’s a concise and clear step by step guide to researching scientifically:
I don’t mean Darwin and the Beagle. I mean Fisher, Haldane, Mayr – a decent grasp of population genetics is a must. Plus google Gould and his “punctuated equilibrium” for the controversies. Appreciate that Natural Selection and Evolution are two distinct things. Skip the God Delusion and read Dawkins’ books on biology – the man’s enthusiasm shines through. Finally, if you decide to click on any of my links, make it this one:
Picture a map of the world in your head – know where countries are in relation to one another. This is a biggie: maps are fun, while away an afternoon just flicking through an atlas. Learn where exactly your latest holiday destination actually is. Pick up any fantasy novel and appreciate the effort that’s gone into making the maps – the story is written into the hills. My advice, draw your own maps and realize what a great tool for art and expression cartography can be. Check this guy out – tis an astonishing feat of the imagination:
This is a word I detest. My advice is: either read a daily newspaper or spend 15mins a day reading analysis on a news website. You can get the actual info of the headlines but its the analysis what counts. For a daily dose: Guardian, Independent, Herald (in print or online) and Newsnight on BBC2 at 10.30pm. For a weekly dose: the Economist magazine. Moreover, I’d advise getting to grips with A) Economics: Keynesianism, Monetarism, what a recession actually is, what interest rates do; and B) Politics: learn the spectrum, what the parties stand for, appreciate what different governments and ideologies hold sway in the world.
Not the school subject with its evidence, analysis and sources, important though that be. Instead, make sure you have a general overview in your mind, a historical consciousness, of what happened when and where. Of who conqured whom. A grand sweep of the past. Maps help:
It’s astonishing how many people believe the Aztecs and the Romans were contemporaneous.
Also, find out about the biggest of Why? of history: what made the West and the Rest. What made Europe overtake everyone else and then conquer them. Jared Diamond is the best and most rigorous if you want answers:
Above all, know that America didn’t used to have white people living there and that Jesus did in fact not speak English!*
(*he spoke Aramaic)
This is the real “humanities” subject. Learn the order in which the Homos come. Research the debates as to the origins of art, language, culture, etc.
Find out about Chimpanzees, our closes cousins. About human migrations.
Join this with your appreciation of Human History and ‘Current Affairs’ to create a three-pronged attempt at making sense of humanity through time. Use your map skills to evaluate humanity through space. Check out the transcendental values and customs, reported in all societies, and think that they might possibly be there cos of evolution – use to science to test this idea. Realize that the one thing we all have in common, thru space and time, is language.
Appreciate that we begin with language and end with language. It is this which makes us truly human.
Oh, and NEVER use Comic Sans…!