Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What do we live for?

Various scientific bloggers have been lamenting the low level of scientific knowledge as exhibited by the masses. PZ Meyers fumes over the 45% of Americans who believe in young-earth creationism. Chad Orzel points out that 34% of women believe the Sun goes around the Earth, that 24% of the population thinks sound travels faster than light, and almost half of Americans do not know that the Earth takes a year to orbit the Sun.

It is sad that people do think Science is Hard, but I can point out similar swathes of ignorance in the arts and literature, in philosophy and religion, that have just as much an effect on peoples' lives. American society puts far too much emphasis on earning money. Careers are picked for salaries more than personal enjoyment, as shown by all those country-western songs. Education is geared towards getting those high paid careers, both at the college and secondary levels. We need to emphasize the things that make us want to live: art, music, culture, philosophy, religion, education for its own sake. Right now self-enrichment is defined by how many toys a person has, when it should be about how many ideas a person has thought up and how many beautiful things a person can appreciate.

The three R's are fine for the beginnings of education, as they provide the basis for all other learning. But very quickly Reading and (w)Riting should be replaced by the Humanities and Social Sciences. (a)Rithmetic should be supplemented with the Physical Sciences and Logic. Fine Arts and Foreign Languages should be started at the very beginning, not in 5th or 7th grade. Physical Education should be injected with Nature Appreciation. These are the things worth knowing, not "How to earn a living."

But then, I'm a musician teaching at a liberal arts college, so I may be biased.

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