Traditional education systems all over our tiny planet focus on the sciences, alongside languages, technology and mathematics, as the priority subjects taught to children. The arts, humanities and physical education are sidelined and deemed less important. As those who have read my other posts will know this is something I disagree with, and recently I’ve been pondering on this disagreement quite a lot.
One of the things I’ve discovered is that its only been in modern times that the sciences and the arts have taken different paths.
I was researching Ren Faires in the United States as a possible outlet for my work as a performer. Being from and living in the UK I’d never been to a Ren Faire before. I knew they were medieval-style themed events but didn’t know what the Ren in Ren Faire meant. Turns out its an abbreviation of the word Renaissance. A word I’d heard before but never used, and if I have I’ve probably used it incorrectly.
The Renaissance, in short, spanned several centuries from the 14th to the 17th and was the time of great thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei. These men, these Renaissance Men, are known to be what’s called polymaths.
A polymath being someone who is an expert in both the arts and the sciences. The two subjects collide and blend together to become one ‘super subject’ within the minds of the polymath as apposed to being thought of separately as they are in the classroom.
The Renaissance legend Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) said: “a man can do all things if he will”. And who am I to argue with that? His concept did after all give rise to the Renaissance humanism movement, which considered humans to be “empowered and limitless in their capacities for development”. Renaissance humanism led to the notion that people could, and indeed should, embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible.
And that’s just what the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Nicolaus Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon and Michael Servetus did. Could you imagine what the world would be like if they hadn’t?
By combining the creative process often associated with arts subjects to the more linear subjects like science and maths you open a world where new, never asked questions form and the answers to those questions lead to exciting discoveries that would never have been found if we continued to simply learn what has come before.
Its a simple idea, and the best ones often are, that will keep us looking forward rather than constantly looking back. We don’t know what the future will hold, but what is certain is that our children are the ones who will have to face it and it is our job to make sure they are equipped with the knowledge to be able to cope with whatever is thrown at them. Science, math, languages and technology alone will not be enough.
Take Kodak as an example. A giant among the photographic world for decades and the home to many great minds in science, math, languages and technology, but where are they now? Unable to react to change they have gone by-the-by.
Kodak were unable to create a solution that meant they would continue as strongly in the 21st century as they had throughout the 20th. If they’d been a polymath organisation they would have been able to draw on knowledge from many different areas and ask new creative questions that would’ve generated the new answers needed for their survival.
In the same way our children need to be polymath organisms with the ability to creatively ask new questions that will lead to new answers needed for their survival.
- Curiosity: Art and the Pleasure of Knowing (maiterodriguez.es)
- 3. Thee Creative Geniuses 1519-1632 (ancestorsofevolution.com)
- The Modern day Renaissance Soul: You don’t have to be a genius (creativechameleonblog.wordpress.com)