Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Educational Categorizations

Posted by Michael Dickens on February 23, 2010

In school, we have certain educational categorizations. We have math, science, language arts, social studies; beyond the academic realm we have a wide variety of subjects such as foreign language, music theory, and even typing class. Some of these categorizations make sense. Still, though, why are math, science, language arts, and social studies deemed the “core” subjects, more important than all others?

At first glance, it seems that the purpose of education is to prepare students for the working world. To an extent, this is true. But as an extension of that, the purpose of education is ideally to prepare students for the world. Does it adequately serve its purpose?

It is widely agreed that the public school system in America is flawed. I believe that improvements within each subject could sufficiently improve the education system. I have a whole post regarding science education; I feel that I have the most to say about science, but I have also commented on the other three subjects.

These improvements to the different individual academic subjects are extremely important. At the same time, they are limited by some broad barriers. Subjects may intermix, but only to a limited extent. Ideally, education would form a web reaching across all areas of interest. Music theory and geography would have certain links. This may sound far-fetched, but think of it this way. The way we learn is by comparing our knowledge to something we already know. We make associations. This is why it’s easy to learn vocabulary words if we can identify root words that we already know. Because of our tendency to make these associations, an education branching across all classes and subjects will, if done right, be much more effective than a series of isolated disciplines.

With this considered, are the current divisions between different course subjects really optimal? I suspect not. But when compared to other educational systems, our current courses seems very apt. Look at the medieval Quadrivium as an example: the four main subjects were arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Talk about a narrow education!


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