Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

Reflecting on last week’s item and the comments I have received has caused me to think back to my days in the world of academe and the academic major that I thought should be introduced into the standard college curriculum. The course would be aligned closely with history, but it would be more specific and detailed, and some might argue, more purposeful.

I entitled the program “Triviology,” a four-year course of study that would capture the minds of gifted students wanting to get to the nitty-gritty lore of knowledge. The introductory class would be called Triviology 101, and it would introduce the aspiring student to the broad panoply of facts, nuances and interpretations attendant to the subject. In this class no one ever would say, “Skip the details,” but rather “Give me more.”

Those who passed the beginning year would move on to the anchor course of the sophomore year, namely, Minutia 201. Here the student would be in competition with the professor, vying to see which of them would know the most in the way of detailed information. Absorption of data would be the overriding focus and would be the segue to the theme of the junior year, Pedantry 301.

Scholarly-minded students would be taught boldly by highly paid professors disdainful of mere generalizations, anxious to impart the essence of their years of study to the next generation. Upon completion of this challenging year, the student would be certified as a Junior Pedant, ready to take on the intensity of senior year, the theme of which would be attacking the obfuscators who warped details into a blob that was not understandable by anyone, even themselves. The name of the course would be Advanced Pedantry.

Upon graduation, the student, counseled by perceptive academic advisors, would determine whether to use the degree either for practical or for theoretical purposes. The former would become a Certified Triviologist, one out there in the marketplace of ideas, sharing with others the knowledge and methods absorbed over the previous four years. These individuals would constitute the majority of those graduating from the college or university.

The smaller portion of the graduating class would be comprised of those whose mesmerization with the nature of details was all-encompassing. They would eschew the give-and-take of the marketplace of ideas, as they climbed the academic ladder to the pinnacle of the ivory tower. From that august vista they would enjoy the respect and adulation of the masses, all the while ruminating on the magnificence of trivia.

These intellectuals would be known as the Trivialogians, the brains behind the movement to make Triviology a core course in the curriculum of every institution of higher education. Many of these intellectuals would return to the university classroom as distinguished professors. They would be the authors of the college textbooks explaining the movement’s assault on traditional learning. They would mount the ramparts defending the new educational system from the disdainful sneers of more staid educators. 

Applying the mantra of the late car salesman, High Dollar Hanley, when they would speak, people would listen. As the movement grew in popularity among students, encouraged and abetted by dedicated faculty members, a revolution in modern education would take place. The triviologists would be out there, applying the musings and pontifications of the trivialogians to everyday life. The relationship between the two would be similar to that in England between a solicitor and a barrister.

Gradually, elementary and secondary education would follow suit, getting pupils involved in the process at an early age. In a matter of several generations, we could become a nation of pedants, all the result of having introduced Triviology into the academic curriculum. One person’s interest in, indeed, obsession with, trivia could become the seed and the fodder for changing education forever.