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Editorial: Teach your kids common facts

Published 9:47am Friday, June 27, 2014

It’s summer vacation. Time to be away from education, right?


It’s a good time for parents to teach children common-knowledge lessons. Common knowledge are things educated people assume most people know; however, many people don’t. In fact, common knowledge becomes a bit so common that some schools breeze past these things.

But remember the questions Jay Leno would ask folks on the street for “The Tonight Show” and how the people struggled to respond? They didn’t show viewers the people who got the answers correct.

When parents teach common knowledge at a young age, it really sticks.

Here is a list of ideas:

• Learn the order of the presidents from World War II to the present day: Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

• Know the 50 state capitals. No, the capital of New Mexico is not Albuquerque. It’s Santa Fe. If nothing else at least know the states around Minnesota: Iowa is Des Moines, Wisconsin is Madison, North Dakota is Bismarck and South Dakota is Pierre. It seems foolish when full-grown adult Minnesotans don’t know these.

• Know the capitals of the most-familiar countries to Americans: France is Paris, United Kingdom is London, Ireland is Dublin, Spain is Madrid, Germany is Berlin, Italy is Rome, Russia is Moscow, Canada is Ottawa, Mexico is Mexico City, Cuba is Havana, Norway is Oslo, Sweden is Stockholm, Denmark is Copenhagen, Japan is Tokyo, China is Beijing, India is New Delhi and Australia is Canberra.

• Explain the solar system, starting with how the moon orbits the Earth, the Earth orbits the sun. Teach the order of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. You might even explain how Pluto is a dwarf planet.

• Get patriotic and explain aspects of Americana. For example, show how the back of coins say “E pluribus unum” and how it means “Out of many, one.” Who are the people on our coins and bills, anyway? Show how U.S. flags used to have fewer stars and explain what the stars and stripes represent. Explain what Route 66 was. Who invented peanut butter, bifocals, the light bulb, the steamboat, the airplane, the telephone, the plow, vulcanized rubber, swivel chairs and washing machines?

• How about science lessons? Why is the sky blue? Why do leaves lose their green color in the fall? How does the tilt of the planet create the four seasons? Does a grape fall at the same speed as a grapefruit? At what temperature does water freeze? At what temperature does it boil?

• Go over famous people from Minnesota, such as Charles Lindbergh, Judy Garland. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Schulz, Roger Maris, Sinclair Lewis, William and Charles Mayo, Hubert Humphrey, Bronko Nagurski and Ralph Samuelson.