Education is something that never stops because you’ll never reach the point where you know everything there is to know about life. We really can learn something new every day. The best proof of that is the r/todayilearned subreddit where people post about all the interesting and insightful new things they learned about the world just now.
With nearly 24.6 million (yup, million) members, the ‘Today I Learned’ community is a real powerhouse, both on Reddit and on the internet. And the online group is chock-full of knowledge-hungry Ravenclaws sharing intriguing things with all of us. Check out the awesome things that the TIL members learned recently, upvote your fave ones, and let us know what interesting things you’ve discovered yourselves, dear Readers. We’re big fans of the TIL community because it keeps on expanding our minds. You’ll find our earlier posts about r/todayilearned here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Remember, Pandas, knowledge is power… and the perfect snack to go with a cup of coffee.
Lenore Skenazy, the president of Let Grow, the nonprofit promoting childhood independence, and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement, was kind enough to explain to Bored Panda all about how we can foster our kids’ desire to learn independently beyond school and turn them into lifelong learners like in the times before compulsory education, as well as how to bring back their spark of curiosity if they ever lose it, no matter what age they are. Read on for our full and incredibly insightful interview with her.
TIL the former World Chess Champion G. Kasparov described Hungarian female chess player Polgár as a "circus puppet" and said that women chess players should stick to having children. Later in September 2002, in the Russia versus the Rest of the World Match, Polgár defeated Garry Kasparov.
TIL mercy dogs were trained during World War I to comfort mortally wounded soldiers as they died in no man's land
TIL that Simone Segouin was a French Resistance fighter in WWII that was only 18 when Germany invaded. She took part in large-scale missions, such as capturing German troops, derailing trains, and other acts of sabotage. And she is still alive and just celebrated her 95th birthday.
We were interested to find out what parents can do to help their children look beyond compulsory education and learn on their own. Lenore, the president of Let Grow, pointed out to Bored Panda that school, as we know it, is actually a new development and goes against how learning was done for much of history.
“In the United States, for instance, school only became compulsory a little over 100 years ago. Previously—for hundreds of thousands of years of human history—kids learned simply by watching, copying, helping, and playing. In other words, they’d hang around the adults, see how they made things like baskets and arrowheads, they’d ask questions, noodle around, and try to copy what their elders were doing. They’d also help out as soon as they could—fetching things, tracking animals, whatever—and in between they’d be playing with a group of mixed-age kids. All these activities were fueled by curiosity,” she explained.
Back before school was made to be compulsory for everyone, the driving force behind kids learning from adults and other kids was becoming both competent and seen as important in your community. So a lot was at stake! “You were motivated to learn what the bigger kids in your group knew, too, because they were so cool. Your entire day consisted of observing and practicing the stuff you needed to know— skills and games. If you weren’t curious, you weren’t going to enjoy life, or succeed at it.”
TIL about Judith Catchpole, a young maidservant in the colony of Maryland, who was tried in 1656 for witchcraft and killing her newborn child. The judge summoned an all-female jury, who determined that Judith did not kill her child - in fact, there were no signs that Judith had even been pregnant.
TIL that the youngest French resistance hero was a little boy who acted as a courier for resistance fighters, slipping past enemy patrols and carrying messages. In 1950, he was posthumously awarded the rank of sergeant of the resistance. He was Marcel Pinte, and he died for France at the age of 6.
TIL that Russian President Boris Yeltsin once got so drunk at a state dinner that he drummed on Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev's bald head, using dinner spoons.
However, nowadays, kids can sometimes seem, well, less curious, less motivated, and less yearning for new knowledge. Not all of them, of course. But some might argue that there’s a trend of following along with whatever the school system tells you to do.
“One reason kids might seem less curious today is because most of their education, inside and outside of school, doesn’t require self-motivation, it requires compliance. The drive is extrinsic, not intrinsic. Kids fill out worksheets because they have to, not because these seem interesting, or have any immediate connection to the ‘real’ world,” Lenore told Bored Panda where the main issue lies. This trend, unfortunately, lies in adult-led (and thoroughly enjoyable) extracurricular activities, too.
“Learning soccer means doing the drills the coach assigns, as opposed to tagging along with the older kids and working hard to get good enough so that they’d start letting you play. The key to curiosity, then, is giving kids enough free, unstructured time for them to find something they love to do for its own sake—not for a grade, or coach.”
TIL of Waverly Woodson, a black medic who treated at least 200 injured men on D-Day while injured himself. As he hit the beach a shell tore apart his landing craft, filling him with shrapnel. Despite this, he set up an aid station and treated wounds for 30 hours, at one point even amputating a foot.
TIL Saudi Arabia accidentally printed thousands of textbooks containing an image of Yoda sitting next to King Faisal while he signed the 1945 UN charter
TIL that in the 1830s the Swedish Navy planted 300 000 oak trees to be used for ship production in the far future. When they received word that the trees were fully grown in 1975 they had little use of them as modern warships are built with metal
According to Lenore, part of the equation is authority figures like parents and teachers introducing children to all the various things they might come to love: from art and music and language to sports and nature and animals. However, that’s not enough.
The other part of the equation, as Lenore puts it, is “to get out of the way and not turn a budding interest into yet another adult-led activity that kids passively go along with.” In other words, spark the interest and let them do their own thing. Don’t try to control them too much, unless you want to douse their curiosity. Be there for guidance if they need it, but go make yourself a cup of tea and relax with a good book (you need to develop your own interests, too!).
“Not every interest has to lead to formal instruction, or at least not until a child really wants it. There’s a big difference between running for a coach, and running for plain old fun. Curiosity and self-direction go hand in hand,” the expert in independence and resilience highlighted.
TIL about Mary Ann Brown Patten, who took command of a merchant vessel in 1856 when the captain, her husband, became ill and the first mate was found to be sabotaging the voyage to win a bet he'd placed on a competitor. She defeated a mutiny attempt and brought the ship safely back to port.
TIL of a French soldier who was taken as a POW and fed only potatoes during his captivity, and survived. Feeling like he should have died, he made it his life’s mission to convince the world of the nutritional value of potatoes, and his tomb in France is decorated with potatoes as a tribute.
TIL the great smog of London in 1952 was so bad that pedestrians couldn't even see their feet. Some of the 4,000 who died in the 5 days it lasted didn't suffer lung problems – they fell into the Thames and drowned because they could not see the river
That sounds amazing on paper, but what other practical things can parents do to foster this self-motivation, self-reliance, and independence? Well, Lenore suggested that one of the things that parents could do is designating an hour or two each day as ‘outdoor’ time without any electronic devices.
“Put some junk out there—old suitcases, blankets, buckets—whatever you’ve got. Of course, at first, the kids might be bored. Scratch that: They will be bored. They’ll want to come back in and grab the iPad. Resist the temptation to let them in or entertain them. Give them a stretch of time—and especially if you can send some other kids out there with them—and out of ‘There’s nothing to do’ something will catch their interest. And a curious kid is born,” she explained. To be completely honest, this sounds amazing for an adult to do as well. The weekend can’t come fast enough!
TIL that Edvard Munch's famous painting "The Scream" was painted on cardboard
TIL If you grind a marine sponge through a sieve into salt water, it'll reorganize itself back into a sponge. It's the only animal that we know of that can do that
TIL that 30 years ago you had 15-17 minutes to escape a house fire. Nowadays you only have 3-5 minutes (due to more plastics & petroleum-based products in the house as well as more open floor plans, bigger rooms, & higher ceilings)
Life can get in the way, however, and kids and adults alike can lose their spark even if they used to be extremely curious. Let Grow president Lenore went into detail about this as well.
“We don’t realize it, but curiosity is a very pleasurable emotion. That’s why people travel—to see how other people do things, to try new foods and new experiences. Doing something new or unfamiliar brings our senses back to life. It can be fascinating even to try to figure out a parking meter in another country. (Infuriating, too. But boy, is your mind working hard!) It’s daunting but ultimately it is exhilarating.”
She continued: “To give dulled-out kids the equivalent of a trip to a new country, send them to do something they haven’t done on their own before. Have them run an errand, visit a neighbor, get something from the woods or the store—something that puts them in a new environment where they have to figure out some stuff on their own.”
This way, kids can feel like they’re conquering a new task or tackling a fear all on their own which is bracing and helps them get out of the shell. Soon enough, they’ll be vibrant and full of curiosity.
TIL there is still someone in the US living in an iron lung.
TIL that four high-school students in the ‘70s are the reason we no longer have pay toilets in America. They created an organization called CEPTIA, and were able to successfully lobby against the issue. 8 years later, pay toilets were all but nonexistent throughout the US
TIL car trunks got emergency release handles because a middle aged woman and her husband escaped being kidnapped and fought for it until it became a requirement
“To make this happen, I must recommend that schools consider doing The Let Grow Project (which is free and takes almost no class time). Kids get the homework assignment, ‘Go home and do something new, on your own, without your parents.’ With just this little push, parents let go and kids take off: riding bikes, exploring towns, running errands, playing, cooking, building,” Lenore said.
“Our at-home version is called The Let Grow Independence Kit—same idea, and same price: $0.00. When everything is done for you or taught to you, it is hard for curiosity to flourish. But you—a teacher or a parent—take a step back, no matter how old your kids are (I’m doing it right now and my son’s 22!), you can watch them come back to life.” The beauty of it is, going outside our comfort zones to get our curiosity back works for adults, too.
TIL that one of the 2 co-owners/founders of Macy's died on the Titanic, along with his wife, because he refused to board rescue ships before women and children were helped. His wife chose to stay behind because she did not want to abandon her husband, so they both died together aboard the Titanic.
TIL that during the Danish Colonization of Greenland, missionary Hans Egede found that local Inuit had no concept for what bread was and so he changed the Lord’s Prayer to say “Give us this day our daily seal”.
TIL In 2007 a man in a wheelchair was hit by an 18 wheeler. The handles were ensnared within the grill of the truck and he was pushed at over 60 mph for several miles on the highway. Amazingly, he escaped without injury.
The TIL subreddit was created on December 28, 2008, which means it celebrated a whopping 12 years in existence recently.
In other words, if the subreddit were a kid, it would probably be in 6th or 7th grade by now (most likely telling its parents all about the new things it learned at school that day). If the community were a business, it could pop the champagne because surviving and thriving for more than a decade is no easy feat.
Saying that we should always be hungry for knowledge and constantly learning is incredibly easy. In practice, however, real-life gets in the way. Promising ourselves that we’ll start delving into a new field, furthering our education, or even brushing off the rust from our old degree sounds good on a Sunday evening. But once Monday morning rolls around, you can find that you’re low on energy, motivation, and just want that first cup of Joe.
TIL that although Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture was written to include cannons firing and cathedral bells, synchronising them with an orchestra proved all but impossible. It wasn't until 1954 that composer Antal Doráti mixed a studio recording with cannons and bells, finally playing it as intended.
TIL Reagan and Gorbachev Agreed to Pause the Cold War in Case of an Alien Invasion
TIL that Britain's worst nuclear accident, would have been much worse, were it not for Sir John Douglas Cockcroft. Whom insisted on installing filters onto the exhaust shaft of the Windscale Nuclear Power Plant. When the accident happened the radioactive dust was reduced by 95%.
However, you don’t need to restructure your entire life to ensure that you’re learning all life long (though that would help). Even small shifts to your schedule and how you spend your leisure can have large effects. Feeling tired all the time? Try going to bed a tad earlier, even if you feel like you’re missing out on your leisure time. Can’t concentrate and feeling irritated all the time? Try reducing the amount of caffeine and sugar you consume daily by a small amount. Get the basics like exercise, nutritious food, hydration, and sleep down first before moving on to complex solutions.
Meanwhile, Forbes suggests switching part of your TV time out for reading a book. And, yes, before you ask, binging random YouTube channels and scrolling through TikTok counts as watching TV. Forbes also explains that meditating can help unclutter the mind while meeting new people can open you up to new ways of thinking. What’s more, playing games makes learning a lot of fun. That’s why you see a lot of apps like Duolingo that gamify education.
But, at the end of the day, these are all crutches. What really matters is a powerful personal desire to keep learning. For me, it’s the desire to get closer to the Truth about the world and life. For others, constant education might have practical ends (e.g. getting a new job or learning a new skill) or might be embraced for its own sake. What’s your reason, Pandas?
TIL if you get a zebrafish drunk and put it in a tank of sober zebrafish, the sober fish will adopt it as their leader and follow the drunk fish around the tank.
TIL that in 2012, a survey in eastern Germany (regions formerly part of East Germany/GDR) was unable to find a single person under the age of 28 who believed in God
TIL Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter in the film series was allergic to his own glasses. He had a nickel allergy and suffered for weeks with mysterious bumps around his eyes, where the glasses touched his face. The nickel glasses were quickly replaced with hypoallergenic specs
TIL a Harvard research showed that having no friends is as deadly as smoking. Researchers have discovered a link between loneliness and the levels of blood-protein which can cause heart attacks and strokes.
TIL that the life expectancy number we know for the midde ages includes the infant mortality, so 13th-century English nobles had 30 year life expectancy at birth, but when they reached the age of 21, they would normally have a expectancy of 64.
TIL the phrase "Turn a blind eye" (willfully ignore information) originated from Admiral Lord Nelson in 1801, who used his injured eye to see through his telescope during the Battle of Copenhagen when he wished to ignore his commander's signals, which resulted in their victory.
Note: this post originally had 109 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.