David Trinko: Continuing the education of an elementary school parent

David Trinko 419-993-2150 •

October 19, 2013

Everything you think you know is wrong. Or it might be, at least.

Every few months, while helping my daughters with their homework, I discover some basic fact that I know to be true and learn it's wrong.

It started with the number of oceans. Four, right? Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic.

“You left one out,” my oldest daughter challenged. “There are five.”

What nonsense. We should go to the library to look at an encyclopedia.

“Encylo-what? Just look it up on Wikipedia,” she answered.

I have troubles trusting a site that anyone can change, so I looked around on the Internet. Sure enough, in 2000 the Southern Ocean was designated, completely surrounding Antarctica on the southern end of the globe. It's the fourth-largest ocean, ahead of the Indian Ocean.

And I didn't even know it existed until I argued an answer on my daughter's homework.

We also disagree a lot about handwriting. My children learned something called “D'Nealian Handwriting.” In short, the letters all look crooked, and most of them have tails on the right side of them. Its website claims it eliminates problems with B and D reversals, and it helps transition pupils into cursive writing, with 87 percent of letters maintaining their basic form.

From my kids' point of view, it means Dad doesn't know how to write. I have horrible penmanship anyway, despite my second-grade teacher's exhaustive efforts. Still, I could always slow down and write a passable sentence with the traditional circle-and-stick method.

“Dad can't write; he can only type,” my middle daughter said this week.

Now any time I work with them on writing, I have to pull out a sheet of paper showing the strokes and study it, as if I'm translating a foreign language.

I look similarly stupid on the number of planets. There aren't nine; there are eight. Pluto stopped being a planet in 2006. Now it's a dwarf planet. There are four other dwarf planets in the solar system, Ceres, Eris, Makemake and Haumea, according to the International Astronomical Union.

The largest country in the world by land mass was the Soviet Union for my formative years. Of course it hasn't been since it stopped existing in 1991. Now Russia, a former Soviet state, holds that distinction.

I spent years “borrowing” numbers while doing subtraction. My kids look at me like I'm crazy and ask why I don't just regroup instead. I bristled the first time I saw them pull out a calculator to do a math problem, then I was stunned when I saw the book told them to do it.

The deadliest attack on American soil isn't the attack on Pearl Harbor anymore. It's the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

I might need to head back to school just to see what else has changed since my last days in a classroom. We walk around daily assuming everyone else has the same base knowledge we do, only to learn we're operating on some bum information.

You can't help but look back at your own childhood and ponder if maybe your parents weren't as dumb as you thought. Perhaps the answers just changed.

Maybe I should call them to apologize for thinking they weren't so bright. First, I'll have to double-check with my kids, to see if that's what you're still supposed to do when you're mistaken. I'd hate to be wrong on that too.