Someone sent me a cartoon which joked about pre-Internet life, implying that questions remained unresolved prior to Google. Reading this reminded me that when I was in junior high back in the early 90s, I would go to the public library after school and write research reports on subjects that interested me. I wrote outlines and then fleshed them out, just like I had learned how to do in my speech elective class in 7th grade. It was a fun memory because I’ve spent a lot of my life learning in this same way. The pursuit of knowledge is its own fulfilling end, right?
But a couple hours later, I remembered a prior research project, before I knew how to write research reports. When I was in 4th grade during the 1989-1990 school year, I really wanted a dog, but my parents were wary of the idea. My folks had gotten a 1989 World Book encyclopedia, and I used it as my first source for learning more about dogs. I don’t know if my parents explicitly told me to research dogs if I wanted one or if I just thought it’d be useful for building arguments in favor of getting a pet dog, but I started researching without even thinking. Actually, I remember now that before the World Book, we had a dictionary in which I would go look up “for ee jin” words in the back reference section.. Anyway, back to 1989, I had checked out books from the public and school libraries, purchased a book about dogs from the book store at the mall, and talked to other dog owners about their experiences with different sorts of dogs. Two days after Christmas, my mom drove my brother and me to Houston to pick up my black lab, Tuggs.
So by the time I was doing random research reports in 7th grade, I may have been just enjoying the exercise of inquiry, but I had learned, even subconsciously or unconsciously, that information had an essential role in getting what I wanted out of life. Unfortunately, I probably had a better grasp on this concept as a 10-year old than I did as a 20-year old, but I got back on track, more or less. Now, I reckon the key difference is that as a fourth-grader, my interests and desires were not as nuanced or complex and paradoxical, but that’s probably stepping on another post’s turf.