A Well Rounded Education

In this country we study for approximately 16 years before entering the career field, and in fact it is getting longer now with more and more people going to professional school. Yet, it is remarkable how little we know when we graduate. We have very little in the way of practical skills, and we have major gaps in our understanding of the world at a theoretical level. At best, we have solid training in the area in which we majored. Now, regardless of specific skills, our academic education does in fact serve a purpose — it teaches us to think at increasing levels of abstraction. However, the key thing to understand is that our education system was not really designed with the modern world in mind. It has slowly evolved over the past eight centuries. What would an ideal modern education look like?

1. It would include practical skills. There are some very important skills that people who want to be ready to deal with life’s situations need to know but are not taught. Some of these could be:

  • Basic Law. This would focus on contracts and various kinds of basic legal dealings that most people will encounter during their lives.
  • Finance and Investment. All most people know is “be diversified.” Everyone who has been following this advice lost a diversified 50% of their investments last year. People need to understand all of the instruments of investment and how the economy actually works. High School economics with its supply and demand curve is pointless. This should include doing your taxes.
  • Basic Automotive Skills. This would be an understanding of all of the parts of the car and the standard things that can come up.
  • Home Ownership. This could be something fairly basic like coverage of all the kinds of things that can come up when owning a house and the way to deal with them. It should include how to buy and sell, and how real estate markets work.
  • Cooking. Everyone needs to know how to cook, but no one does.
  • Basic Personal Care. Medicine, Nutrition
  • Relationship and Communication Skills. Overcome pride and self-centeredness. Listening. Understand the perspectives of others. Boundaries. Deal with conflicts.
  • Citizenship. People should be taught to understand the way their government functions. How do local governments work? How are people elected?
  • Basic Computer Skills. Reinstall Windows. Setup networks. Remove Spyware, Typing.

2. It would include the arts. Specifically, a well rounded education should include:

  • Basic drawing skills — something incredibly handy throughout life, and a gateway to developing expression.
  • Playing an Instrument — Everyone should learn to play an instrument. By this I do not mean that everyone should put their kids in piano at age three to become some great player. What I really mean is that around middle school age, kids should develop the ability to read music and express themselves on an instrument. By this I envision something more like Jazz training than classical training.
  • Basic Literary Techniques — We should develop the understanding and use of images, metaphors, and all kinds of ways that language is used to convey complex and beautiful ideas. (like a poetry class)

In addition to these, A well rounded academic education. This is what is intended by many schools, but not what exactly results. This is partly because a lot of what we’re taught has to be filtered, and it’s partly because the “core” is seen as a “weed out” or boring. The components of a true academic education would definitely have more classical moorings.

3. Historical Studies

  • Complete understanding of the 4 thousand years of recorded history. One should have century by century knowledge since at least the time of Solomon when the dates become more firm. I believe this should start with an understanding of “Western Civilization” because of the Christian roots. Focus should be on culture and large scale political movements, not specific wars and kings.
  • Modern History. Perhaps instead of “American History” specifically we tell the story of the modern world since the Reformation, placing America in context.
  • Understanding of Global Civilizations. Once one understands the Western and Christian story lines, one needs to revisit the entire world to understand the important features of every other civilization, including Islam, India, China, and Africa
  • History of Philosophy. With an awareness on the cultural and political outworking of ideas, the line of reasoning of Thought at least since the Enlightenment.
  • Political Science. Specifically the need to understand the nature of “power.” The depraved nature of people in geopolitics and local politics. Game theory, and practical application.
  • Cultural Geography. This should include both cultural and economic geography. Knowing where a country is does not explain how the world works.

4. Language Studies.

  • Great Literature. This should culminate in Shakespeare, and include the greatest literature from European history.
  • Competency in Greek. This is the language of the New Testament, the Septuagint, and a lot of important ancient literature.
  • Overview of Latin. Most of the rest of Western Literature is in Latin as, or Latin based languages. One should have an overview understanding of the basics of Latin. We import a lot of terms from Latin as well. Both “overview” courses could be taught young, and then language competency later.
  • Fluency in one Modern language through living abroad for a semester.
  • Rhetoric/Argumentation – Life is full of arguments. Understanding their structure helps us take them apart. Include public speaking/presentation.
  • Cultural Literacy. There are a lot of things that will not be studied in school but are icons of communication.
  • Biblical Interpretation. Including imagery and metaphors, intertextuality.

5. Practical Sciences. The “Applied” topics are often considered for “Vo-Tech” people. because academic understand promotes higher levels of cognition. I disagree. People will retain what is applicable to their lives. In reality Engineering is simply a return to the hard sciences with an “applied” focus.

  • Practical Statistics. How to use Statistics in leadership, research, etc.
  • Applied Math. Teach Math through Calculus I with a focus on practical application.
  • Applied Physics. Physics is actually a pretty practical science if taught that way.
  • Physical Geography and Basic Astronomy. Orientation of the planets and star navigation as was practiced for thousands of years. Basic weather patterns. Natural boundaries.
  • Biology. Emphasis here on how things operate including human anatomy, not evolutionary mythology.
  • Applied Chemistry.

I will refine and update this as we go. As you can see this is a fusion of a classical paradigm, with a revision for practical knowledge, as well as the modern global reality.

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