How do you know what you NEED to know?

20 Aug


What is it that we really need to know?

Today I decided to read a book. I selected “Black Firsts: Groundbreaking Events in African American History” by Jessie Carney Smith.  I was excited as I began to review the facts, starting with the section of architecture, as the book is arranged in alphabetical order by professional categories. As I was reading, I was trying to determine how I can use these facts in my life or create activities in which my students can become familiar with the names and accomplishments of the African Americans named.

English: African American History

English: African American History (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I began to doubt…”Why do I need to know this?” kept repeating in my head. I started feeling guilty and trying to keep reading but I continued to have questions, in particular, “what will I do with this information?” Although I hate to admit this is what was going through my head as I was reading about Black firsts, I think the revelation extended far beyond the topic of Black news; I was truly (and still are) trying to figure out how do I determine what I really need to know. Better yet, how do I decipher what news and information will one day be relevant in my life….

I think it is safe the assume that my upbringing has and will continue to guide what information and opportunities for information gathering I value. For example, as I seek entry into the business world, will business news always seem to have its proper place in my “spare” learning time……Will news of famous playwrights and poets be valid because I continue to teeter in the field of arts? How will I know that I need to know what I am exploring?

Is it a feeling that guides what we need to know? For example, how I felt while I was reading Black Firsts. If I begin to doubt or question, does that mean I should ignore the learning opportunity? I was a little sad that I felt some sort of doubt while reading Black Firsts….I wondered did I not find the information relevant because it was about Black people (i.e. I’m too old for the Know Your Heritage Bowl so when will this set of knowledge come out of my back pocket). I kept saying to myself, “it is good to know about the accomplishments of your ancestors.” That argument did not really work because although IT IS good to know, I already KNOW. I KNOW in my heart, I KNOW in my actions, I KNOW in my strength. I will NEVER doubt the achievement of my Black ancestors.

And so….I began to write this piece. Trying to figure out how we decide what we need to know. In school, it was clear-know what you need to know to pass the test. At work it can be clear- know what you need to know to not get fired. In every other aspect of life it is more difficult….you have to determine what you NEED (what words are calling you when your spirit needs to hear something new…..). I think I did want to read something that would inform me about Black people, Black struggle, Black excellence. But this was not the right choice.

I am now off to see what words/ information my soul needs at this time. I hope yours needed those above.


So, how do you know what you NEED to know?



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2 responses to “How do you know what you NEED to know?

  1. ksidney

    August 25, 2012 at 2:42 am

    HISTORIC KNOWLEDGE is only valuable if you’re an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT in the PRESENT and FUTURE of that particular FIELD of STUDY. Why learn about the HISTORY of POLITICS if you’re a MATHMETICIAN? Does knowing who BILL RUSSELL is matter if you don’t care for BASKETBALL? In my HUMBLE OPINION, the only PEOPLE that value the HISTORIC KNOWLEDGE of a FIELD that they have nothing to do with/no interest in, are those that wish to have conversations about that FIELD with those that do. Anything you use precious TIME to LEARN should be something that BENEFITS your PROFESSIONAL or SOCIAL LIFE. I also think that TECHNOLOGY has changed our INTERESTS. In this DIGITAL AGE, INFORMATION is like FAST FOOD: once you’re done consuming, you only want more, but if it’s not FRESH, it’s no good. I think we’re so caught up in staying UP-TO-DATE, that HISTORY isn’t as relevant as it once was to everyday PEOPLE.

    My .02.

    • Ashley S.C. Walls

      August 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

      As always, you bring great perspective to the topic at hand.

      These are great points. I too think a variety of current information is available everytime you look at a computer and that it is hard not to stay present.

      I also agree that it is easier to learn the history of a field rather than general topics which just helped me to realize how I can bridge the gap of what I was reading.


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