Classical Stuff You Should Know


Sure, you read Plato's Republic in college, but how much do you really remember? Did you know that a 12th century French poem, "The Song of Roland," influenced J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth?

Classical Stuff You Should Know is an aptly titled podcast whose weekly episodes tackle important names, writings, and events that influenced the evolution of Western civilization—and continue to influence modern culture—from the philosophy of ancient Greece to the bloodshed of the English Civil War, from the legends of King Arthur to the poet John Milton's biblical fan fiction.

The series hits the right mix between banter and information that will make you wish your history classes had been half as entertaining. Hosts Graeme Donaldson, A.J. Hanenburg, and Thomas Magbee are educators at the Austin, Texas–based Veritas Academy. The school's Christian values are evident in the podcasters' perspective, but the breadth and depth of their knowledge make for good listening even if you don't share that specific lens. Although some on the right talk about "Western civilization" as cover for an exclusionist xenophobia, this podcast delivers substance without nasty politics and reveals the West as a set of ideas and accomplishments that need not be connected to nation or race.

NEXT: She Came To Slay

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  1. “Sure, you read Plato’s Republic in college, but how much do you really remember? ”

    I remember Socrates telling his students that no man should have a private wife of his own; that all women belong to all men.

    1. You just have to pay by the hour…

    2. I didn’t read Plato’s Republic in college, because I had a real major.

      1. Hey, we read it in HS so that we already had checked it off when in college. The concept of “philosopher king” is about all I recall; a suggestion to let the elite rule – that does not seem to be working out any better than it did in The Simpsons when the scientists ruled the world.

        1. I don’t think many of the politicians now ruling could be called “philosophers” or “elite.” Maybe that is the problem.

    3. I remember Socrates saying “Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of our lives”.

      1. Heh heh…but the number of people who get that joke is decreasing by the day.

        (Speaking of the days of our lives)

  2. This is motherfucking hilarious coming from Boehm who has never read anything more sophisticated then Dr. Suess in his entire life.

    1. D-R. S-E-U-S-S

    2. Dr. Seuss is very sophisticated, if you dig deep.

    3. You would misspell Seuss on a plane
      You would misspell Seuss on a train

    4. Yea, that was my first thought.

  3. Are you guys going to start a gardening and cooking column in “Reason”, too?

    1. Why not? Growing and eating your own food is libertarian.

      1. libertarian, or just going galt? For me, it’s more the later – I’m just tired of dealing with idiots and fools who’s only standard is how much they can skim rather than what they can produce. Besides (or may because), the quality is vastly superior.

  4. I’m more a fan of Walter Williams and Tomas Sowell.

  5. An Incomplete Education stays in my car for times when I’ve got some time to kill. It calls itself a guide to things you should have learned in college but probably didn’t, but it’s really a survey of Western Civilization. You don’t really have to know the difference between Hegel and Wittgenstein or John Calvin’s birthday or what exactly a boson is, but if the subject comes up in conversation you should know right off the top of your head that we’re not discussing who played shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, you should have at least heard of it. It’s what forms a common culture. It’s also what divides cultures – if you can name 5 current celebrities caught cheating on their spouse but can’t name 5 historical figures from WWII, we might have a problem finding something we can hold a conversation about.

    1. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, you should have at least heard of it. It’s what forms a common culture.


  6. Could be kinda cool… I do like having at least passing knowledge of a wide breadth of stuff.

    What I really hate about myself is I can’t STAND to listen to people just ramble on about things for eons. It drives me nuts. I can talk to people IRL about stuff for eons, but podcasts and YouTube videos just annoy me for some reason. I prefer to read stuff. But sometimes I wish I could stomach it as a lot of cool stuff is being produced in those formats nowadays.

  7. I didn’t read Plato’s Republic in college. I got a professional degree, not a liberal arts one.

    1. I see I should have scrolled down first 🙂

  8. Everything I need to know about the bloodshed of the English Civil War I learned from The Clash.

    1. History (which Lord Protector killed which King) is a framework, but on that framework of people and time hangs the flow of ideas. Some are dead ends (monarchy, communism, central planning), but some have something to them (classical liberalism, evolution). Ideas, like science, can be continually refined (classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, gawdknowswhatcomesnext), but it can be at least interesting to see whence those ideas came and the times that allowed them to spring up.

  9. Sure, but how about a more general list of shit you should know. For example:

    How to change a flat tire.
    How to catch, prepare, and eat a fish.
    How to prove the earth is spherical, and measure the diameter.
    The fundamentals of natural selection.
    Where natural resources come from, how to find them, and basic ideas about extraction and refinement.
    How the human body works and basic medicine.

    1. “How to prove the earth is spherical, and measure the diameter.”

      Actually, it’s an oblate spheroid, or it was when my teacher told me about it.

      1. Oblate spheroids are spherical. Not perfect spheres, but sphere-like.

    2. Yes, but add John Locke (2nd Treatise…. working on it, tough going, but interesting to see Jefferson cribbing the punchlines for use in the Declaration of Independence), and germ theory. Maybe have read the Communist Manifesto just so that you can refute it (on my list). Enough Shakespeare to at least know the general themes of Macbeth, Julius Cesear, and just the joy of Merry Wives of Windsor or The Tempest.

      And yes, try to slog through the entire Judeo-Christian bible, just as a common starting point for much of American culture – Lincoln did not come up with “a house divided against itself can not stand’ – that’s right out of the gospels. Much of the OT is pretty wild stuff, but it is part of our foundation.

      The reason the classics are classics is because there is something there about humanity and the real world. Classics are still being written, or attempted, and not all will succeed, but it’s a good starting point.

      1. And don’t forget the practical:

        Yeast won’t work in a kitchen at 60 F
        Always watch where you point your gun
        Never assume the power is off
        Wash your hands after you sneeze or sh*t, and before you start cooking.

      2. Well, I also believe Lincoln was the only American President to self-identify as a non-Christian, though perhaps not publicly.

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