On May 28th of this year, the great American author and poet Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. As a recovering English major, I read a lot of poems and works of writing by Ms. Angelou, and probably even had a few inspirational quotes of hers on my Pinterest board dedicated to quotes. However, social media exploded when this lovely author passed, social media came to life with her quotes and tweets of #RIPMaya being sent out by 7th graders who only know her quotes from Googling “Inspirational Quotes.” The worst part of this was when some people even sent out tweets, thanking Angelou for refusing to sit in the back of the bus so people could be free today. I’m not sure if Rosa Parks is laughing or rolling her eyes up there, but either way it’s a great example how popular it is to fake cultural literacy.
A recent article from Huffington Post talks about how in our culture today it is easier than ever to fake knowledge when it is not there. At one time it might have been embarrassing but unavoidable if we had to admit we had not read anything by Maya Angelou, but now that knowledge is so temptingly close at hand, we can search it on our phone and be instantly able to nod our head knowledgeably and add our two bits to the conversation. As expansive and useful as media is and can be, perhaps some of this culture is really a negative. I think someone like Maya Angelou is an example of a person who researched, learned and took time with her words, despite her being on Twitter up until her death. Important words aren’t meant to be quickly tweeted out and full knowledge isn’t meant to be found instantly. Sure, when I want to attempt to bake cookies when I have a sudden craving, it is very useful, but true, sustainable knowledge is more than just a clip art pin on Pinterest.