Latest News and Comment from Education

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Teacher Tom: "Actual Life"

Teacher Tom: "Actual Life"
"Actual Life"

Alfred North Whitehead spent the 1890's writing his Treatise on Universal Algebra, and the next decade collaborating with this former student Bertrand Russell writing Principia Mathematica, generally considered to be one of the most important works on mathematics, or any topic for that matter, of the 20th century. I share this only to point out that this guy was no slouch. A supremely well-educated man, who taught at places like Harvard, and who aged into the sort of old, white man upon whom the entire idea of Western Society has been built. Putting mathematics largely behind him, in his later years he turned increasingly to philosophy. In 1929, in an essay entitled, The Aims of Education, this dusty academic, from deep within the established order, wrote:

There is only one subject-matter for education, and that is Life in all its manifestations. Instead of this single unity, we offer children -- Algebra, from which nothing follows; Geometry, from which nothing follows; Science, from which nothing follows; History, from which nothing follows; a Couple of Languages, never mastered; and lastly, most dreary of all, Literature, represented by plays of Shakespeare, with philological notes and short analyses of plot and character to be in substance committed to memory. Can such a list be said to represent Life, as it is known in the midst of the living of it? The best that can be said of it is, that it is a rapid table of contents which a deity might run over in his mind while he was thinking of creating a world, and has not yet determined how to put it together. 

This could be written today by any one of us who have spent CONTINUE READING: Teacher Tom: "Actual Life"