An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't

An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn't

by Judy Jones, William Wilson

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Overview

A completely updated, revised edition of the classic, outfitted with a whole new arsenal of indispensable knowledge on global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, and modern arts. Here’s your chance to brush up on all those subjects you slept through in school, reacquaint yourself with all the facts you once knew (then promptly forgot), catch up on major developments in the world today, and become the Renaissance man or woman you always knew you could be!

How do you tell the Balkans from the Caucasus? What’s the difference between fission and fusion? Whigs and Tories? Shiites and Sunnis? Deduction and induction? Why aren’t all Shakespearean comedies necessarily thigh-slappers? What are transcendental numbers and what are they good for? What really happened in Plato’s cave? Is postmodernism dead or just having a bad hair day? And for extra credit, when should you use the adjective continual and when should you use continuous?

An Incomplete Education answers these and thousands of other questions with incomparable wit, style, and clarity. American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History: Here’s the bottom line on each of these major disciplines, distilled to its essence and served up with consummate flair.

In this revised edition you’ll find a vitally expanded treatment of international issues, reflecting the seismic geopolitical upheavals of the past decade, from economic free-fall in South America to Central Africa’s world war, and from violent radicalization in the Muslim world to the crucial trade agreements that are defining globalization for the twenty-first century. And don’t forget to read the section "A Nervous American’s Guide to Living and Loving on Five Continents" before you answer a personal ad in the International Herald Tribune.

As delightful as it is illuminating, An Incomplete Education packs ten thousand years of culture into a single superbly readable volume. This is a book to celebrate, to share, to give and receive, to pore over and browse through, and to return to again and again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307567772
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/22/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 720
Sales rank: 1,918
File size: 22 MB
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About the Author

Judy Jones is a freelance writer who lives in Princeton, New Jersey. William Wilson was also a freelance writer. Wilson went to Yale and Jones to Smith, but both have maintained that they got their real educations in the process of writing this book. William Wilson died in 1999.

Read an Excerpt

American Literature 101
 
 
You signed up for it thinking it would be a breeze. After all, you’d read most of the stuff back in high school, hadn’t you?
 
Or had you? As it turned out, the thing you remembered best about Moby-Dick was the expression on Gregory Peck’s face as he and the whale went down for the last time. And was it really The Scarlet Letter you liked so much? Or was it the Classics Illustrated version of The Scarlet Letter? Of course, you weren’t the only one who overestimated your familiarity with your literary heritage; your professor was busy making the same mistake.
 
Then there was the material itself, much of it so bad it made you wish you’d signed up for The Nineteenth Century French Novel: Stendhal to Zola instead. Now that you’re older, though, you may be willing to make allowances. After all, the literary figures you were most likely to encounter the first semester were by and large only moonlighting as writers. They had to spend the bulk of their time building a nation, framing a constitution, carving a civilization out of the wilderness, or simply busting their chops trying to make a living. In those days, no one was about to fork over six figures so some Puritan could lie around Malibu polishing a screenplay.
 
Try, then, to think only kind and patriotic thoughts as, with the help of this chart, you refresh your memory on all those things you were asked to face—or to face again—in your freshman introduction to American Lit.
 
JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758)
 
Product of:
Northampton, Massachusetts, where he ruled from the pulpit for thirty years; Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he became an Indian missionary after the townspeople of Northampton got fed up with him.
 
Earned a Living as a:
Clergyman, theologian.
 
High-School Reading List:
The sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741), the most famous example of “the preaching of terror.”
 
College Reading List:
Any number of sermons, notably “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence on Him in the Whole of It” (1731), Edwards’ first sermon, in which he pinpoints the moral failings of New Englanders; and “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God” (1737), describing various types and stages of religious conversion. Also, if your college professor was a fundamentalist, a New Englander, or simply sadistic, one or two of the treatises, e.g., “A Careful and Strict Enquiry into the Freedom of the Will” (1754), or the “Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended” (1758). Not to be missed: a dip into Edwards’ Personal Narrative, which suggests the psychological connection between being America’s number-one Puritan clergyman and the only son in a family with eleven children.
 
What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School:
Edwards’ historical importance as quintessential Puritan thinker and hero of the Great Awakening, the religious revival that swept New England from the late 1730s to 1750.
 
What You Didn’t Find Out Until College:
What Edwards thought about, namely, the need to get back to the old-fashioned Calvinist belief in man’s basic depravity and in his total dependence on God’s goodwill for salvation. (Forget about the “covenant” theory of Protestantism; according to Edwards, God doesn’t bother cutting deals with humans.) Also, his insistence that faith and conversion be emotional, not just intellectual.
 
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-1790)
 
Product of:
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
 
Earned a Living as a:
Printer, promoter, inventor, diplomat, statesman.
 
High-School Reading List:
The Declaration of Independence (1776), which he helped draft.
 
College Reading List:
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1771– 1788), considered one of the greatest autobiographies ever written; sample maxims from Poor Richard’s Almanack (1732–1757), mostly on how to make money or keep from spending it; any number of articles and essays on topics of historical interest, ranging from “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One,” and “An Edict by the King of Prussia” (both 1773), about the colonies’ Great Britain problem, to “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” (1751), all of which are quite painless.
 
What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School:
Not a thing. But back in grade school you presumably learned that Franklin invented a stove, bifocal glasses, and the lightning rod; that he established the first, or almost the first, library, fire department, hospital, and insurance company; that he helped negotiate the treaty with France that allowed America to win independence; that he was a member of the Constitutional Convention; that he was the most famous American of the eighteenth century (after George Washington) and the closest thing we’ve ever had to a Renaissance man.
 
 
What You Didn’t Find Out Until College:
That Franklin had as many detractors as admirers, for whom his shrewdness, pettiness, hypocrisy, and nonstop philandering embodied all the worst traits of the American character, of American capitalism, and of the Protestant ethic.
 
WASHINGTON IRVING (1783-1859)
 
Product of:
New York City and Tarrytown, New York.
 
Earned a Living as a:
Writer; also, briefly, a diplomat.
 
High-School Reading List:
“Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” both contained in The Sketch Book (1820).
 
College Reading List:
Other more or less interchangeable selections from The Sketch Book, Bracebridge Hall (1822), Tales of a Traveller (1824), or The Legends of the Alhambra (1832), none of which stuck in anyone’s memory for more than ten minutes.
 
What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School:
That Irving was the first to prove that Americans could write as well as Europeans; that Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle’s wife both got what they deserved.
 
What You Didn’t Find Out Until College:
That Irving’s grace as a stylist didn’t quite make up for his utter lack of originality, insight, or depth.
 
JAMES FENIMORE COOPER (1789-1851)
 
Product of:
Cooperstown, New York.
 
Earned a Living as a:
Gentleman farmer.
 
High-School Reading List:
Probably none; The Leatherstocking Tales, i.e., The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), The Prairie (1827), The Pathfinder (1840), and The Deerslayer (1841) are considered grade-school material.
 
College Reading List:
Social criticism, such as Notions of the Americans (1828), a defense of America against the sniping of foreign visitors; or “Letter to his Countrymen” (1834), a diatribe written in response to bad reviews of his latest novel.
 
What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School:
That Cooper was America’s first successful novelist and that Natty Bumppo was one of the all-time most popular characters in world literature. Also that The Leatherstocking Tales portrayed the conflicting values of the vanishing wilderness and encroaching civilization.
 
What You Didn’t Find Out Until College:
That the closest Cooper ever got to the vanishing wilderness was Scarsdale, and that, in his day, he was considered an insufferable snob, a reactionary, a grouch, and a troublemaker known for defending slavery and opposing suffrage for everyone but male landowners. That eventually, everyone decided the writing in The Leatherstocking Tales was abominable, but that during the 1920s Cooper’s social criticism began to seem important and his thinking pretty much representative of American conservatism.
 
RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803-1882)
 
Product of:
Concord, Massachusetts.
 
Earned a Living as a:
Unitarian minister, lecturer.
 
High-School Reading List:
A few passages from Nature (1836), Emerson’s paean to individualism, and a couple of the Essays (1841), one of which was undoubtedly the early, optimistic “Self-Reliance.” If you were spending a few days on Transcendentalism, you probably also had to read “The Over-Soul.” If, on the other hand, your English teacher swung toward an essay like “The Poet,” it was, no doubt, accompanied by a snatch of Emersonian verse— most likely “Brahma” or “Days.” (You already knew Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” from grade-school history lessons, although you probably didn’t know who wrote it.)
 
College Reading List:
Essays and more essays, including “Experience,” a tough one. Also the lecture “The American Scholar,” in which Emerson called for a proper American literature, freed from European domination.
 
What You Were Supposed to Have Learned in High School:
That Emerson was the most important figure of the Transcendentalist movement, whatever that was, the friend and benefactor of Thoreau, and a legend in his own time; also, that he was a great thinker, a staunch individualist, an unshakable optimist, and a first-class human being, even if you wouldn’t have wanted to know him yourself.
 
What You Didn’t Find Out Until College:
That you’d probably be a better person if you had known him yourself and that almost any one of his essays could see you through an identity crisis, if not a nervous breakdown.
 

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Revised Editionix
Introductionxiii
Chapter 1American Studies2
Chapter 2Art History62
Chapter 3Economics120
Chapter 4Film146
Chapter 5Literature184
Chapter 6Music264
Chapter 7Philosophy302
Chapter 8Political Science338
Chapter 9Psychology416
Chapter 10Religion450
Chapter 11Science490
Chapter 12World History554
Lexicon620
Index663

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An Incomplete Education: From Plato's Cave to Planck's Constant...Einstein to Gertrude Stein...Twelfth Night to Twelve-Tone Theory...Half-Life to the 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
Sloth-SHS65 More than 1 year ago
I am typically drawn to these tid-bit style books. I enjoy reading useless and sometimes entertaining bits and pieces. So with that proclivity, I was given this as a gift. While it has it's moments this is basically disjointed, disorganized and uninteresting. A lot of what appears in here is opinion based. I don't read these type of books for opinion. This is like a "best of" list book in parts. I don't care to read someone else's opinion on insignificant things. I cannot urge anyone to buy this mess.
CosMcKidd More than 1 year ago
I really like the book. I think the author's sense of humor is fun. Obviously the book doesn't cover every subject in great detail but it certainly opened my mind to new concepts and gave me enough information to do my own study in greater depth on the subjects I found interesting. I bought this book in anticipation of being on a quiz show. I didn't make the cut for the show but I was very pleased with the new things I learned from this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I attended one of the best colleges in the country, one that is known for its so-called Common Core Curriculum, which should have educated all of us in the basics. Somehow I still managed to lack tons of information that I think that an educated person should know. I ran across this book and read about a tenth of it. That was enough to make me want to buy it, which I am doing today. I read the review from the reviewer who accused the writers of being homophobic and focusing on this aspect of their personalities in an unfair way. In the roughly tenth of the book that I have read, I found no mention at all of homosexuality of any kind, and suspect that the reviewer has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
very well written to be easy and fun to read in small bites, a good conversation starter.
scrtwpn More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was addicting the amount of information they were throwing at you. They make it easy to skip around to topics that interest you most. The authors actually have a sense of humor which makes for absorbing all this information a little easier and entertaining. I would have liked for a little more detail and more clarification on some issues. Sometimes it did seem like the authors expect you to already have common knowledge on certain subjects which made their explanation a little confusing. But otherwise, I appreciated how the authors compared what you learned in high school to what you should have learned instead.
Josh_Hanagarne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's fun to feel smart and this book makes it easy. Even if you're not smart at all, few will know if you can point out the differences between Yeats and Shelley. A lot of fun.
ABVR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A learned, irreverent, smart-alecky guide to everything you didn't learn, wish you'd learned, should have learned, or weren't around to learn in college . . . history, literature, philosophy, science, and much more. It's so well written that you can read it (and I've read it) just for entertainment . . . yet intellectually sound enough that you can use it as a reliable reference. One-of-a-kind.
drewandlori on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Someone gave it to me (for Christmas, I think) years ago, and though bits of it (especially the Political Science chapters) are sort of dated now, I still look through it from time to time.
wenestvedt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book is a splendid miscellany: I cribbed *so* many things out of it for papers in high school that I've often wondered what I missed. Then again, articles in the book -- like the Twelve Fictional Characters You'd Most Like to Have at a Dinner Party -- have also lead me to read the background in order to better get the joke. I wish all my friends were this smart.
jentifer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Judy Jones and William Wilson have written the perfect tome of knowledge for any high school or college student. This large book is divided into twelve main areas of knowledge: American Studies, Art History, Economics, Film, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Science, and World History. Intended as a ¿gap filler¿ for students (and adults) who may just need to be reminded of what they already know, this book has takes a light tone yet contains loads of useful information. Some topics include: (in Art History) The Leonardo/Michelangelo Cribsheet, (in Literature) How to Tell Keats from Shelley, and (in Political Science) What You Need to Know Before Answering a Personals Ad in the International Herald-Tribune: A Nervous American¿s Guide to Living and Loving on Five Continents. The best feature of this book, however, is the Lexicon (AKA ¿A Few Hours¿ Worth of Remedial Work in Vocabulary, Spelling, Pronunciation, and Foreign Expressions¿), which contains such vital lessons as ¿Twenty-Six Words Not To Write Wrong¿ and ¿¿How Do You Say in Your Country ¿Yearning for the Mud¿?¿: A Stay-at-Home¿s Guide to Words and Phrases in Three Foreign Languages¿. An invaluable addition to any YA collection, this book is sure to be picked up and read by anyone who finds it lying open on a table.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, a lot of harsh criticism of this book. The original 1987 edition was in my family's library when I was a child, and I have fond memories of perusing through this book enough that I probably read the whole thing 2 or 3 times in small doses at a time. Even being that young, I could tell this book has a strongly humorous bent and doesn't take itself too seriously, and neither should the reader. It's not designed to be a heavy-duty, ultra authoritative compendium of human culture. That said, it does offer a lot of interesting tidbits of knowledge (and opinion) to casual readers. It won't turn anybody into a scholar,  it's just meant to be a fun book that can help give a reader a little bit of well-roundedness if they can read it with some objectivity. Because of this book, I have had a handy and easy-to-read reference point for learning a little bit about philosophy, film history, etc. Lighten up, folks. And please remember, the key word here is "incomplete". I think some reviewers here have set the bar way too high.  
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General info for a rainy day read! Do not need to sit down and read at one sitting!
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MercerLaw96 More than 1 year ago
Not as comprehensive as I had hoped (and too "preachy" on some points). Could have been better organized and given a broader view of the areas it purports to cover.
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