5 Reasons You’re Not an Educated Man

My youth was spent in the English countryside at a traditional boys-only private boarding school. I opted out of rugby for the shelter of the squash courts, I preferred Latin and Classics to the science labs, and I remember fondly times spent sitting in the silence of the school’s chapel. When I graduated from school, however, I wasn’t an educated man. Something was missing…

It turns out that becoming an educated man requires more than book learning, more than a posh accent or entry into an “old boys” society, but how much more?

1. Your Schooling and Education Was a Failure

A Countryside School

When I decided to become a digital nomad who homeschools, my son was only two. He had already started speaking, and I realized that I’d better prepare myself. “How do you take a child from babbling to being well-educated?” I found a fantastic definition in the Clarendon Report of 1864.

England was modernizing. Old ideas were being left aside while factories churned out new goods faster than ever before. The government sent the 4th Earl of Clarendon to investigate the nine leading schools of the time. In his report, he defines education like this:

“If a youth, after four or five years spent at school, quits it at 19, unable to construe an easy bit of Latin or Greek without the help of a dictionary or to write Latin grammatically, almost ignorant of geography and of the history of his own country, unacquainted with any modern language but his own, and hardly competent to write English correctly, to do a simple sum, or stumble through an easy proposition of Euclid, a total stranger to the laws which govern the physical world, and to its structure, with an eye and hand unpractised in drawing and without knowing a note of music, with an uncultivated mind and no taste for reading or observation, his intellectual education must certainly be accounted a failure, though there may be no fault to find with his principles, character, or manners.”

Clarendon 1864:31

So, according to the Clarendon report, there are 11 must-haves for any educated man.

  1. Latin or Greek
  2. A modern foreign language
  3. Understanding of Geography and History
  4. The ability to write well
  5. Skills in Mathematics
  6. Understanding of the Sciences (the laws of nature)
  7. Artistic ability
  8. Musically ability
  9. A taste for reading
  10. Curiosity to learn

If you want to become more masculine, go through this list and ask yourself about your own education.

Schooling takes care of some of these subjects: writing, mathematics, and science (few people leave school not knowing how to read, write, or do simple sums). But how many people leave school knowing a second language? Or able to name dates and events from history? Able to play an instrument or draw?

Let’s also note what Lord Clarendon isn’t saying. He isn’t saying that everyone should be an expert in these areas. In fact, he doesn’t mention expertise or advanced knowledge at all. He says instead that a basic understanding of these aspects is necessary for someone to be well-educated.

These basic skills and knowledge are vital as a foundation for becoming an educated man. You can be a mathematical genius, but if you’ve never read Shakespeare and don’t know what happened to the Roman Republic, you can’t call yourself well-educated.

2. You Lack These Skills

Playing Piano

An educated man needs to have both a store of knowledge in his mind and some skills learned through practice and repetition. You can see these in the Clarendon list above, and you can see this in any elementary school.

Writing is a discipline (skill) developed through practice, and spelling is knowledge stored in the mind, and you need both.
Pythagoras’ Theorum is memorized knowledge. Using it is a skill that requires practice.

What are the skills that an educated man is expected to have?

  • Writing Skill – Not only should he be able to write intelligibly, but purposefully and convincingly
  • Speaking Skill – The great schools of Britain or any country always produce well-spoken graduates
  • Artistic Ability – Take a look at the sketches of the presidents of the United States. They all have some skill in drawing
  • Musical Ability – Music (numbers in time) is a skill everyone has the time and ability to learn
  • Critical Thinking – How to form arguments and how to see flaws and logical fallacies

So those are the skills an educated man should develop, but what about the knowledge?

There are two types of knowledge:

3. You Don’t Understand These Two Types of Knowledge

Old Books

Knowledge of the world is information that exists naturally and that we can discover with science, such as the boiling point of water or the number of electrons in a magnesium atom.

Cultural knowledge is data that we humans have created, and that wouldn’t exist without us, such as the capital of China or a quote from Milton.

Someone with a lot of knowledge of culture is usually called “well-read” or “cultured,” such as Stephen Fry, Joe Rogan, or any philosophical thinker. This is in contrast to someone with a lot of scientific knowledge, such as Einstein or Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

  • Historical Details
  • Legal Definitions
  • Biographies
  • Art, Music, and Literature
  • The Inner Workings of the Mind (Psychology)
  • Religion and Philosophy

Contrast these topics with knowledge of the natural world around us. This knowledge exists separate from humans and is waiting to be discovered by us.

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • The Geography of Earth

So all you need to do is practice the skills and memorize the basics of the topics above, and you’ll be well-educated, right?


4. You Don’t Have It Memorized

Go back a hundred years, and you’ll find that most schools used rote learning. The teacher tells you something, and you remember it.

Learning this way meant that everyone was equipped with a basic corpus of knowledge. There was a problem, though—it was boring.

Rather than continue putting children through the boredom, educationalists decided that memorizing facts was no longer necessary for a good education and instead focused on using concepts.

So, instead of memorizing the Ten Commandments, for example, students are asked what they think is moral behavior; rather than memorizing the names of the types of clouds, they learned the water cycle.

Theorizing about morality and considering ideas of psychology are useful skills, but not at the expense of basic facts. If you’ve ever met someone with strong opinions on the economy or politics but no stats to back up his ideas, you know the problem this causes.

Take an average student from China (I’ve taught hundreds as a digital nomad over the years) and put him next to a student from the U.S. One will have the answers but not be able to communicate them well, and the other will talk like a champion but have nothing of worth to say.

What’s the takeaway here?

Educated men need a fundamental store of knowledge upon which they can build more complex ideas. You need to memorize information.

Did you know that $2.2 trillion was paid in income tax in the United States last year or that $1.3 trillion was spent on social security?

They might be interesting facts to have memorized if you like talking about government spending, but most people gloss over the facts and remember the idea- something like “We spend a lot on social security.” But when it comes to a discussion with friends over dinner, you have nothing to back up your claim or to analyze if it’s even true.

5. You Only Have One Brain

You need a place to put all the little pieces of information you come across each day that you wish to keep. A second brain (or personal knowledge management system) will help you organize and store all that knowledge and help you go back and memorize it when you want.

I know you’ve read a book and wished you could remember the point it made when talking about it later, or better yet, be able to quote the passage. You would come across as so much more credible and knowledgeable if you only spent a moment memorizing that quote!

All your clothes are stored in one place because you own a wardrobe. If you didn’t own one, they would end up all over the place. So you must have a place to store all your knowledge, a place you can later use to memorize the information, too.

A notebook is great for this, but a second brain app will turn you into the educated man you always wanted to be.

Gregory Gaynor Avatar

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done.

Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.