When I was a little girl growing up in New England, my father used to play a game at our dinner table. He called it the General Knowledge Game. Each night he would ask the same question: “What happened in the world today that might change the world as you know it for yourself or others?” At first, I didn’t have any answers for him. He quietly responded that perhaps it was time for me to start reading a newspaper and to pay more attention to the evening news (this was long before 24 hour news coverage). Believe me, it was a bit of an effort for an eight year old to watch the news or read a newspaper.
Wanting to please my dad I started to read and listen and when he asked the same question again, I had some new answers for him. My younger sister balked at Dad’s game but when she saw how happy my answers made him and perhaps I got an extra dessert, she too bought into the new game.
There were days that the news was not that interesting to an eight year old, but Dad took all my answers as valid and always found something positive in what I had to contribute to the dinner time conversation. After I had given my answer, my father would always tell me to file that information away in my GK (general knowledge). He would then wink, and tell me that you never knew when that information might come in handy!
This game went on for years. When I was in the 7th grade, my history teacher one day asked a similar question. No one raised their hand but me, as I was armed with my treasure trove of news bytes and trivia. My teacher was taken back with my quick answer. He asked me where I got my answer. I then went into a long explanation of the game my father played at the dinner table, and how it forced me to watch the news and read a newspaper. He was fascinated. He started asking our class the same question every day.
But, little did I know how our family game had deeply impressed him until I ran into his cousin a few years ago. As we sat talking, she told me how he had incorporated that game into his classroom activities and had used it as a learning tool for years and years. He has been retired for many years. At the time that I visited with his cousin, my Dad was going through a serious, terminal, illness and it warmed my heart to realize what his simple little mealtime game had spawned.
My dad and I continued to play this game even when I reached adulthood and I lived far from home. Every time we talked on the phone, he would ask what I had recently filed away in my GK. I really miss his voice asking that familiar question. My dad is gone now, but his game and all he taught me about expanding your general knowledge still continues. I sometimes wonder, how many others that studied in that 7th grade classroom continue to foster Daddy’s game in classrooms of their own or at dinner tables around the country.
I played the same game with my son Will as he grew up. And now I often ask my three grandchildren, during our weekly telephone conversations, what has happened in the world that, “Might change the world as they know it for themselves or others?” When they answer I tell them to file the answer away in their GK. I tell them that they never know when that information might come in handy!
Currently I teach history “online” for Cowley College in Arkansas City, Kansas. In memory of Daddy’s dinner table game of knowledge sharing, I place weekly postings concerning world events that affect us all in a column on the class homepage. The column entitled: General Knowledge aims to broaden my students’ world view. They are then encouraged to discuss the topics on our class discussion board.
The column has been well received and has become a vital learning tool that enlivens distance education. It now reaches approximately one hundred students each semester. It is a growing educational achievement when a student asks to receive the column long after the course is finished or they tell me they will play the game with their own children.
In addition to sharing the game with my grandchildren and students, I also send the column (each Monday morning) on a distribution list to family, friends and academic peers. I think my Dad would be happy to know how far his game has gone, and how many people it has touched. “This I believe”, has been the greatest gift a father could pass on to his daughter.
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