The course not taken

In the States, there is now a big hoop de do about the value of a college education, and, more precisely, how do we define value. Not surprisingly, a 4-year  liberal arts (humanities + science) education is less valuable to some than something that will get you a job in an engineering firm. That said, since anything of creative quality is a function of style*content, being well read, culturally aware, and deft with words and equations is a pretty fantastic tool set with which to face an uncertain future.

Still the following argument will only work on some people.

My only serious academic mistake was in learning German rather than Ancient Greek in high school. My dad was convinced we’d all be run by Germans in the future (and how right he was) but the now rusty skill hasn’t helped much at all. A Heidegger sentence makes a teensy bit more sense in the original, but that’s about it. (Yeah, I know: poseur alert material). But Greek? I could tackle the Gospels in the original! I could read Plato and Aristotle as they were meant to be read.

But the main reason for a classical education is precisely its uselessness. True learning is practically useless; and it should be. It is not about deploying knowledge to master the world, it is about the pursuit of truth for the sake of nothing else. It is about the highest things. How is a life worth living if it ignores them?

From Andrew Sullivan

Ahh, if I had only taken Spanish in high school, and not French (sorry Madame Schmelling). Then perhaps I would not have been voted “Gringo mas gringo” in my first tropical biology course in Costa Rica.


2 Responses to The course not taken

  1. Anonymous says:

    Of course, if you were studying tropical biology in sub-Saharan Africa, the French would come in pretty handy.

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