Educational Issues Rooted in the Disappearance of Renaissance Women and Men

As a community college student, if you are interested in more than two subjects or majors, the advice that many adults/advisors/professors will give you is to only focus on one — often advising students to essentially drop the idea of pursuing interest in two+ unrelated fields. This is because the current prevailing belief is that the student’s number one priority at this point in their lives should be to figure out a career path and continue forward towards the next level. This advice is dreadfully problematic for a guy like me because I believe that curiosity must be nurtured before it deafens with the progression of age. Unfortunately, the average student’s ability to pursue their curiosity is greatly marginalized due to the nature of our culture enacting a specialized, workforce-geared education philosophy. Renaissance women and men are more rare today because of this specialization.

Many people, including myself, enjoy pursuing their curiosity in a connected web of interdisciplinary subjects. For example, I’m especially interested in brain science, quantum physics as a whole, including the philosophy behind it as well as quantum computing and AI, math and its philosophical implications, programming, and the different types of political systems and their economics.

I’ve been told many times that I should go with economics because of the degree’s monetary benefits, but I strongly feel that pursuing an education with the sole intent to make money would be to neglect the most valuable, sacred part of education: the chance to vigorously pursue one’s curiosity and follow the essential human desire to learn. To me, this seems to be the core of the problem — EDUCATION ISN’T SUPPOSED TO ONLY BE ABOUT MONEY OR PREPARING PEOPLE FOR CAREERS; its most necessary purpose is to enlighten and encourage those whose search is motivated by interest and curiosity. This is a necessary purpose in the education system because it directly facilitates the blossoming of genius minds that will continue to positively develop a society, at a much faster rate than a mass of career-focused college students.

Maybe the reason there hasn’t been a renaissance woman or man coming out of academia in over one hundred years is because it’s more rare for individuals to follow their curiosity and interest in school due to the fact that they follow in the footsteps of the great majority of people who see education as a bridge to higher paying jobs instead of viewing it as a platform that can be used to discover one’s interests in life, as well as build meaningful, enjoyable careers from those interests (which, 1. Leads to a better quality of life for the individual, and 2. Creates the most productive society in terms of the progress of humankind’s total acquisition of knowledge).

Perhaps, this culturally ingrained, societal desire for wealth, that is commonly held to a higher esteem than personal knowledge & personal growth by [this type of] society’s masses, is a faustian bargain we’ve made. Could this “bargain” somehow be contributing, in the abstract, to the environmental destruction of Earth and its life? What kind of societal/economic/political implications does this reality entail? How would life in the US be different if people were more likely/better able to discover and pursue their interests in our education systems?

(3 minute speech by Alan Watts, British Philosopher)