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The Best Education for the Best is the Best Education for All
9/10/12 | Education Next blog
David Brooks wrote last week about a long conversation between philosopher Isaiah Berlin and poet Anna Akhmatova. He wrote that the evening the two great thinkers shared was “communication between people who think that the knowledge most worth attending to is not found in data but in the great works of culture, in humanity’s inherited storehouse of moral, emotional and existential wisdom.” Brooks continued
Berlin and Akhmatova were from a culture that assumed that, if you want to live a decent life, you have to possess a certain intellectual scope. You have to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness and make subtle moral and emotional judgments.
I’m old enough to remember when many people committed themselves to this sort of life and dreamed of this sort of communion — the whole Great Books/Big Ideas thing. I am not sure how many people believe in or aspire to this sort of a life today. I’m not sure how many schools prepare students for this kind of love.
Do schools today need to focus more on preparing students to grapple with the big ideas and the big books that teach you how to experience life in all its richness?
Peter Meyer has written extensively for Education Next about the crucial role of the humanities in our schools, particularly for poor children.
In one piece, he examined the views of Earl Shorris, a social critic who argued for fighting poverty by teaching the humanities, and contrasted this idea with the push for “21st century skills” being promoted by some education reformers as a path to success.
He has also written about how proponents of vocational education often overlook the role of studying the humanities in preparing students to live a full life.