I was just thinking about “what is a good basic education?” I mean beyond mastery of reading, writing, and arithmetic? (We won’t go into how poorly or well that is. Topic for another post.) I do think another very important part especially for those of us who are products of the Western world is a grounding in the classics – not just lit, but art, history, and architecture. I think a good basic education means you can recognize world renowned buildings – like Parliament, Kremlin, Machu Picchu, Great Wall, Sydney Opera house, Parthenon, White House, Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple at Deir el Bahari, the Pantheon, etc. Not only should be able to name them but tell why they are significant be it historical or architecturally or socially.
Which brings me to my morning coffee thoughts. I was surfing Pinterest as I do. (I have to limit it to my morning coffee time and breaks). There I saw a photo pinned under architecture as “the Forgotten Temple of Lysistrata“. Which I thought odd on several levels – the obvious one “Hey that’s the Pantheon’s dome, arches, and oculus” which led to the morning pondering. The more obscure one is Lysistrata is an ancient play about the battle of sexes, so why would there be a temple to a comedy? Now I don’t expect everyone to know that. But know the Pantheon on sight – yep I guess I expected that to be part of a basic historic education.
You see the Pantheon was the first understanding that arches in a series made a dome that would not need support in the center offering a large open interior space. Even my bumpkin small high school education taught me that. It was something that was modified and used later in the Medieval Period to make wall of glass and cross shape of cathedrals in the form of the flying buttress. Again I accredit my tiny country high school for the knowledge.
Next I quizzed Mike who has been to the Pantheon and doesn’t have as strong classical education as I got. “Would you recognize the interior of the Pantheon if you saw it photoshopped into another picture?” His answer “No, but I’d recognize the ugly outside of it.” SIGH my expectations are dashed. I’ll give him that it isn’t pretty on the outside the interior is the impressive and the knowledge gained in the use and modifications of arches. Heck, we aren’t really sure what it was built to do.
As my morning coffee grew cold I considered what I thought was a good basic education – a working understanding of how another language different from your own native tongue is structured, a grounding the the history of your predominate culture and introduction to other major cultures of the world (including art, architecture, mathematics etc), strong general science basics (biology, physics to include astronomy, chemistry), mastery of the basic grammar of your language, understanding of major literary works in that language (having read a few completely and introduced to others and their significance), basic economics (personal accounting, intro to various business systems), music at least two years on one instrument (including discussion of the math and physics of sound and how that is captured in written sheet music), physical education (including explanation of what exercise does what muscles to relate back to biology class), Geography (relating to history and general science as well as current political boundaries).
Okay maybe my expectation is a bit much but wouldn’t it be grand if we all got that as a foundation to start building our dreams…