…Superficialities, of course, are rife. A young man should be computer literate, and moreover should know Hemingway from James Joyce. He should know how to drive a car well — such as is not covered in “Driver Ed.” He should know how to fly a light airplane. He should know how to shoot well. He should know elementary geography, both worldwide and local. He should have a cursory knowledge of both zoology and botany. He should know the fundamentals of agriculture and corporate economy. He should be well qualified in armed combat, boxing, wrestling, judo, or the equivalent. He should know how to manage a motorcycle. He should be comfortable in at least one foreign language, and more if appropriate to his background. He should be familiar with remedial medicine.
–Jeff Cooper, Commentaries, October 2005.
There are lots of these “a man should be able to…” lists floating about the ‘net; probably the most famous is Heinlein’s, if only for its last line:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
I score pretty well when matched up against Heinlein’s list. I have a ways to go to meet Cooper’s standards. For example:
a. Considering that Cooper was a race-car driver, I doubt I’m at the level where he’d say that I drive a car well.
b. Fly a light airplane? Not yet.
c. Shoot well? Again, not by Cooper’s standards, I don’t. (In an old essay, Cooper states that beginning shooters should not be allowed to plink until after they can keep all their shots in a ring the size of a teacup offhand with a handgun at 30 yards. I think the Analog Kid can do that consistently. I can’t, not yet.)
d. Fundamentals of agriculture? I’ve got ’em in my head, and I come from a line of farmers, but I haven’t farmed. I’d like to start a backyard garden this summer, though.
e. Well qualified in armed combat? Nope. (From the context, I wonder if he meant unarmed combat? Oh well, I haven’t trained in any of that either.)
f. Motorcycle? Not yet.
Well, I guess I have plenty of things to add to the self-improvement to-do list. It should take a couple years.
And no cracks about Cooper’s list being inapplicable because I’m showing signs of wear. A man of thirty-six is still considered young in some quarters!