Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

The comments I have received over last week’s column on Northern Neck trivia have caused me to reflect on my days in the realm of academia during which time I had proposed the introduction of a new curriculum, namely that of trivialogy, into the mainstream of American education. Many of my students seemed to be enthralled by details, thereby leading me to advance a radical new approach to education, one which they could appreciate.

I proposed that the new course of study should begin with the freshman class taking Trivialogy 101. It would be a class designed to test the students’ abilities to organize and remember the nitty-gritty of life’s experiences, both past and present, serving as a clearing house for the faint-hearted, who entered the program on a whim or a lark. Those that dropped out still would have had the opportunity to go through the basics of the trivia mill.

On the other hand, students who showed promise would advance in their sophomore year to Minutia 201. This course would be the real testing ground for the future. Highest grades would go to those who grasped the most arcane tidbits of knowledge. Sophomores are supposed to be wiser than freshmen, and this course would give them the chance to prove it.

For those who persevered, in junior year, Pedantry 301 would be awaiting them.  In that arena their minds would be saturated with details, challenging them to make sense of it all. Those two semesters would be critical to the students’ ability to learn how to sort through sophist arguments to achieve complete mastery of all aspects of trivia. 

The well-educated pedant should be familiar with all means of demonstrating his or her level of absorption of detail. Modesty should not be encouraged in barraging individuals with one’s accumulation of trivialities. The crowded mind is the happy mind.

Finally, in senior year the aspiring pedants would take an advanced seminar in the elocution of trivia. After all, if one knows all the details, why not demonstrate such comprehension publicly? Upon successful completion of this course, the student would be allowed to refer to him or herself as a pedagogue. No such person ever should be called by the pejorative term, dilettante. 

After graduation the newly minted scholars of trivia would have to make a critical decision, i.e., whether to go into the practical or the theoretical application of their studies. The former would become trivialogists. They would be the resource people for those with questions about details, babbling out critical data to the uninformed masses, most of whom on any given day could not care less about trivia. Basically, they would be trivia therapists, working every day with those less informed.

The ones choosing to follow the theoretical side of their education would become trivialogians. They would be the folks who would be espousing the broad concepts of the essence of trivia, lecturing to eager audiences, and publishing their findings in highly respected scholarly journals, all to be read and devoured by academics of like minds far and wide. They would be the recipients of umpteen millions of dollars in research grants, allowing them to live off the fat of the land while delving ever more deeply into their professed academic pursuits.

At times I was dismayed about the lack of enthusiasm for my curricular proposal, which I thought could fill a significant lacuna in American education. I concluded that some academics felt threatened by the introduction of a new discipline and recoiled in their fears. Perhaps they did not understand the importance of trivia, or perhaps they were concerned about slicing the grants pie into smaller pieces, should the trivialogians begin getting their own fair share.

Today, trivialogy remains a notional academic concept in cyberspace. When will it alight?