Towards a Scheme for Education

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to solve problems of curriculum and education — what to teach (learn), how, and why?

Particularly for autodidacts who must craft an educational journey beyond formal schooling, how might they organize their studies and materials?

Here’s the proposed scheme.

First, immerse. All the subjects of the humanities, social sciences, and relatively non-theoretical natural sciences (biology, ecology) should be learned by immersion in times, places, cultures, and environments. Get a big world history textbook to provide a basic framework, and then have at it. Sample broadly, but dive deeply into one or just a few significant cultures, literatures, histories, and ecologies of special interest. Gain first-hand experience through slow travel and living abroad.

Second, master skills. Start with basic language skills in your native tongue: read, write, converse. As you specialize in immersive contexts (see above), add additional languages. Learn mathematics. Learn technology skills (coding, no-code, and design). Learn manual skills, including at least one by which you could make a living in your local economy if you needed to. Learn practical skills for managing a house, clothing, food, finances, and a small business. Learn at least one fine art or craft: drawing, painting, pottery, music, singing, carpentry, needlecraft. With newfound skills, make things: do projects.

Third, read Great Books. Sample widely, but dive deeply into a dozen or so texts (or oeuvres) worthy of digesting over the course of a lifetime and capacious enough to be drawn upon continuously for wisdom. Don’t study just the classics of “western civilization,” but look to the East as well, especially to the varying traditions of the Middle East and Asia. Read in all the world’s religions and major philosophies, but read very deeply in your own tradition if you have one. (Choose wisely.)

Fourth… is an endeavor I can’t quite articulate yet. For now I’ll call it: cultivate “ritual.” It has to do with first sampling, then committing long term to a practice of spectatorship and participation in a community that celebrates some kind of liturgy, whether it be religious, artistic, public service, politics, academics, or any other time-gathering activity that has a fixed and longstanding seasonality to it.

There is one other educational subject area that doesn’t fit handily into the four categories above, which I would deem essential, but which I don’t want to add as a separate category. It’s the study of the major conceptual frameworks of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). Mathematics and “technology” as skills have been included above, as have immersive (and historical) aspects of any science associated with particular times and places. What I’m thinking of is basically “textbook science” primarily in the physical or biomedical sciences, or engineering fields. As a solution, depending on one’s general educational outlook, one might count “textbook science” primarily in immersion, by taking a history & philosophy of science approach; or as preliminary or complementary knowledge (episteme) to the development of skills (techne); or even as a systematic and easier-to-grasp compendium of the findings of the “great books” of science.