Thursday, June 03, 2010

Well- roundedness is overrated.

Why are people so hung up on 'well-roundedness?' They worry, "But if your kid only studies what they want they won't be well rounded."

Which is ironic really since so many people I know who have gone to school are NOT well rounded. To many, Africa is a country, Brazil is a jungle. Three levels of government in Canada? Eh? What three? Climate change? Just some activists stirring the pot. Public schooling? Always been around.

'Well-roundedness' is overrated. Why would anyone want to hang with a well round person? I mean, I'm not saying that every conversation I have with a person should fire my brain into frenzy of excitement and take me to new heights of awesomeness-but seriously when we dialogue with people knowledgeable about a subject and who are excited about it-isn't that a lot more rewarding than talking to a person who knows a smattering of this, and a titch about that little about everything but nothing in depth? Borrrring.

When you dig deep to understand what well roundedness actually means- "having experience and interest in many subjects"- it is obvious that well roundedness is a myth for the average person who cares more about his or her latest soap or hockey game.

There are people who know a little about everything, people who know a lot about everything, and people who know a lot about one or two things.

As far as I can tell, the so called 'well-rounded people'- the ones who know a bit about everything, are actually the least interesting to speak and interact with.
 The ever inspiring Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden,

I learned this, at least, by my experiment:that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.
........It is a ridiculous demand which England and America make, that you shall speak so that they can understand you. Neither men nor toadstools grow so. As if that were important, and there were not enough to understand you without them. As if Nature could support but one order of understandings, could not sustain birds as well as quadrupeds, flying as well as creeping things... as if there were safety in stupidity alone...

Why level downward to our dullest perception always, and praise that as common sense? The commonest sense is the sense of men asleep, which they express by snoring....

Do not seek so anxiously to be developed, to subject yourself to many influences to be played on; it is all dissipation.

Your thoughts?

8 comments:

Charli Armstrong said...

WOW! I couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous said...

Well rounded people are conversant with the main issues of the day. They won't embarass themselves in public by not being aware of say events such as the world war, or the war in Iraq or who painted the Mona Lisa. That is what I meant.

Charli Armstrong said...

@Anonymous...

I understand what you mean. But why do you believe an unschooler would not be aware of what is going on in the world? They are in it 24/7. No one can escape knowledge of the war.

Of course your well rounded person is going to be able to name the artists whose paintings have been deemed classics. But an unschooler or even a schooler with a passion for DaVinci's work will be able to name some of his other paintings outside of his most famous ones.

If a well rounded person is more mathmatically inclined, will his life be less meaningful and fulfilling if he can't name something DaVinci painted besides the Mona Lisa?

Anonymous said...

But if people don't have a general knowledge of the same things then our culture is at risk. How can we call ourselves a society or a common culture without a common frame of reference? And where do we get that frame of reference? Schools.

S said...

I've always thought of well-rounded people as those who had many interests. Maybe they aren't an expert in everything, but many things strike their fancy. They are active and engaging to talk to because they like to know what other people enjoy. I think unschoolers are well-rounded. It took me the same number of years to enjoy learning, as it took me to get an "education". I was 30 before I began being even slightly round.

Charli Armstrong said...

@Anonymous

Fair point. Yet who decides what is the common frame of reference and why are their choices more suitable for a culture that is in a constant state of change?

clementine said...

Maybe anonymous is talking about a 'national identity.' I wonder about that too. How can we and do we want to preserve national identities? Or do they evolve naturally because of where and how people live??

rfs said...

@Charil and @Anon-Thanks for the comments. This is a really important discussion.
@S-Thanks for the comment.
Ref-culture. I often thing about how culture is created; think about the culture around a book such as the Harry Potter Series. Or the culture that has sprang up around rock music and classical music. Some people enjoy one kind other another-and know little about that other! But these different cultures exist side by side-it's diverse,organic and constantly changing-because people are diverse and creative and constantly changing as well. What's my point? I guess we live in a world where things are interconnected, inter related and we can't help but gain knowledge if our curiosity is alive and one interest leads to another- one piece of learning leads to another and so on and the person just keeps growing and learning.

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