As you can see, i'm not foreign to making an ass of myself. I go by what I hear, and according to many of you, that hasn't been reliable. So, i pose this question which is totally off the subject of the forum. What should one attempt to take from whatever martial art you choose.

Mr. Anslow's response is right on. I would go one further. You must find out what you want from a MA, then find the school & teacher who will be best positioned to deliver that to you or help you find or develop it.
The problem is, many, myself included, didn't do any homework when picking a school. I simply joined where one of my best buddies went to. In the long run, it was exactly what I needed & couldn't have been a better fit. But luck & the fact that there were not really that many MA schools back then, played a part.

Today my standing advice for anyone, student or parent, looking for a MA school, is to simply make a list, visit them all, watching 1st, with no questions. Then going back several times, during several different classes & eventually ask a lot of questions, of teacher, students & observers.

As long as you find a good fit, & get what you need, most everything else is moot, as long as you are informed.