Quote of the moment: Education is knowing what you know, and what you don’t

Commenter Robert Lopresti mentioned a book assembled at the Library of Congress, to assist Members of Congress in creating speeches on important issues, with accurate quotes in accurate context: Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations.

One might wonder if anyone in Congress even knows the book exists.

You can buy the book, at Amazon, or from the Library of Congress Gift Shop, and Bartleby has it online (public domain already?).

My first use of the online version, I looked for education, and found this from William Feather (1889-1981), describing  just what “an education” is:

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information you get.

When and where did Feather say that?  Things get murky — according to the list at the Library of Congress:

Publisher and writer William Feather, photo by William Feather III

Publisher and writer William Feather, photo by William Feather III. Can we trust a bon mot attributed to such a jovial and scholarly looking fellow?

Attributed to WILLIAM FEATHER.—August Kerber, Quotable Quotes on Education, p. 17 (1968). Unverified.

An honest assessment that we don’t know for certain that Feather said exactly that. This book could be a valuable resource!

Who the heck was William Feather?

William A. Feather (August 25, 1889 – January 7, 1981) was an American publisher and author, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Born in Jamestown, New York, Feather relocated with his family to Cleveland in 1903. After earning a degree from Western Reserve University in 1910, he began working as a reporter for the Cleveland Press. In 1916, he established the William Feather Magazine.[1] In addition to writing for and publishing that magazine, and writing for other magazines as H.L. Mencken‘s The American Mercury, he ran a successful printing business, and wrote several books.[2]

Feather’s definition appeals to me.  Educated people know where to find the facts they need, and they know when it’s important to search for those facts, rather than stand on ignorance.

Compare it with the Hubbard/Rogers advice, that it’s what we know “that ain’t so” that gets us into trouble.

How could any test, ever test for that?

3 Responses to Quote of the moment: Education is knowing what you know, and what you don’t

  1. Robert Lopresti says:

    And an hour after writing my first comment I found a perfect example of a federal document that IS copyrighted, or to be specific, contains copyrighted information, as they are careful to point out: America the Beautiful: The Nation’s Trashiest Humor. EPA, 1970. http://tinyurl.com/pah7whg


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Sometimes copyright is claimed so that pirate versions don’t get out; sometimes copyright is claimed so that private groups can’t republish for massive profit.

    Under common law, the copyright is established at first use or publication.

    In the heyday of telecom here in Dallas, I used to cause great gnashing of teeth in the legal departments because employees were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, and agreements granting copyright to everything created while on the company’s dime. One company I worked for had a really badly phrased form that essentially said, ‘you give copyright to everything you’ve ever created, even in the past, unless you list it here so we know we can’t claim it.” I’d been the publisher at Education, and there were a couple hundred publications that, the ED lawyers said, I had to disclaim. So I did.

    Some idiot lawyer had to go over each of those publications and rule whether the company should contest copyright. I suggested they modify the disclosure form instead, to claim stuff only after the date of employment. He said a company that had invented such a stupid form had a bureaucracy that would not respond well to such a modification.

    Had a couple of different positions there. I found it humorous.


  3. Robert Lopresti says:

    >(public domain already?).

    If it is published by the federal government it is not copyrighted. That’s true ALMOST all the time. My favorite counter-example is an aerial map that says, approximately: “Copyright US Government 1996. No copyright claimed under the US Code Title 17.” I asked a copyright expert what that meant and he said “I THINK they are claiming copyright in foreign countries.”


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