I learned something yesterday.

... And the day before. And, I believe, the day before that.

I trust a whole lot of kids are learning something today, it being the first week of school and all.

I’ll be darned surprised if I don’t learn something today as well.

And I’m betting that you will too ... something like the fact that one ear of corn contains roughly 800 kernels in 16 rows, and 100 bushels of corn can contain upwards of 7,280,000 kernels.

If you didn’t know that when you picked up this newspaper, you just learned something.

Chances are you’re not sitting in a classroom and, other than paying for the paper, didn’t pay any tuition.

There won’t be a half-sheet quiz and no grades will be given.

Still, you learned something ... knowledge probably as useful to you as my knowing that Helena is the capital of Montana has been to me ever since I had to learn it to get out of fifth grade.

Which might make a guy wonder: What is it schooling is for, anyway?

Dumb question? I dunno, with a year of college selling for upward of $50,000 and school districts looking for mega-million dollar tax levies, it would seem we’d best have a pretty doggone good answer right there at the tip of the tongue.

And then be able to tell you why it has to cost so much ...

Remember, you just learned something and if you swiped the paper, it didn’t cost you a dime.

Understand, I’m not anti-learning. As anyone who’s ever pulled to the side of the freeway and opened the hood to stare at a non-functioning automobile engine understands quite profoundly, ignorance isn’t bliss.

On the other hand, as anyone who’s looked back on a long, happy and successful life with the mildly dismaying realization she hasn’t diagrammed a sentence to identify a gerund phrase since 1957, and her last ninth grade grammar test will likely attest that not all things adjudged of import by educators are of equal import as time goes on.

And as anyone who’s managed an iPhone, mastered Netflix, faced off with Facebook or simply tossed together a passable homemade beef stew without first matriculating in the appropriate institution will attest, there’s an awful lot of learning going on without proper state accreditation.

All of which begs the question: What it is that school is for?

As for me, by the time I was flushed out of first grade I could read in the English language, construct a simple coherent English sentence, had mastered simple sums and basic subtraction, and gained an understanding that the words my father used to describe the cow that slapped him in the face with a manure encrusted tail were not appropriate in every social situation. Subsequent years of schooling essentially elaborated on those basic skills.

In my last year of high school, Leo Simon taught me to type.

Pretty much everything else that I’ve picked up along the line — from swine nutrition and restaurant management to child care and drywall taping — I’ve learned from folks whose only credential to teach was that they knew how to do what they were doing and figured if I was going to be worth the air I breathed I’d best learn so I could be of use.

So I learned.

Learned how to learn.

Which, considering how most of what we teach those kids crowding into this week’s classrooms will be out of date well before they line up for a diploma or attempt to figure out life on their own, is probably the only lesson truly worth learning.

Let’s hope, somewhere along the line, someone is teaching it.

Jerome Christenson is editor at the Winona Daily News. His phone number is 507-453-3522 — leave a message if he’s not around — or email him at jerome.christenson@winonadailynews.com.

Outbrain