Thoughts on the Nature of Education

Learning is a process that I visualize not unlike what the creation of stars and galaxies may have been like; with analysis and creation, perhaps through the scope of research or composition, as something of an astronomy art form in the coalescing of constellations. It is this idea that there are multiple instances of existent thought pervading in an endless manner, lost to infinity. Therein lies the practice of appraisal and cartography of matters seen through a number of pupils past counting. As a mapmaker aligns different locations, so too does the student of the universe assemble different realizations into personalized perspectives unlike any other, whilst sharing the same source material. Beauty sparks itself in the lumbering minds, where some ideas are the exact same but no two minds are completely identical. Within this frame of ideology exists a practice so sacred and divine that its wards clad themselves in cloaks and cloth of many colors in the rare moments of ceremony they hold. Wizards of many walks of life, masters of their own futility and enormity, I speak of educators.

When thinking about the way education founds itself I tend to imagine something not unlike a spider web transformed into a mandala. There are patterns of thought and conceptualization across all specializations; similarities in the foundations of a field. There is the path of mathematics and wild astrophysics, but there is also the avenue clad in literary exposure – Even the mastery of craft. These different fields, or subjects as we refer to them, all interconnect in a multitude of ways. The psychologist looks at the mind of someone who is suffering, yet so too does the neurologist, the sociologist, or the wayward marketing agent. What the psychologist refers to as depression may be understood by the neurologist as a chemical imbalance, the sociologist as a cultural phenomenon sparked by national tragedy, or the wayward marketing agent as an opportunity to make a sale. Lenses of pedagogical variety, all these perspectives offer a unique way of looking at things. Yet, there is special value to comprehending the nature of interdisciplinary thought.

When reading The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde there is an excess of interconnected and woven intricacies of creation. The historian notes the implications of homoerotic condemnation and its role on the happenings of the tale. The writer pays astute attention to how every syllable sounds, what the plot structure is, and may even venture far enough to conduct some literary analysis. The mathematician may consider Newtonian proofs in a philosophical context, thinking of laws of our universe as a means of perceiving, less so than simply living. It is the interdisciplinary application of as many of these different perspectives which pushes the knowledge base forward, however. We have to ask ourselves what it is, what it means to create.

Learning and current understanding, through all the different paths of academia, may be nothing more than an attempt to describe what the universe is, or to apply meaning and context in a way that makes life worth living and knowledge worth knowing. The archaeologist, when specialized, may think that the secrets of existence and meaning sit within Mayan ruins that have yet to be discovered. The biologist, also when specialized, could feel that research on sacred herbs with hallucinogenic properties may be the next revolution in practical, modern medicine. These specialized individuals, as graduate students often are, move from understanding and learning into a place more oriented towards creating or finding.

Research proves a popular venue for individuals who are steeped in a certain kind of technique, in regards to how they think about the universe and their chosen specialization. The way I had research described to me was through the idea that our current base of knowledge is a lumpy sphere and the goal is to poke the sphere outward by as much, or as little, as we are able to. This adds a layer of understanding to the sphere, which I often conceptualize as one of the stars or galaxies from an earlier visualization. Yet, I think we are facing something of a crisis that would have Greek philosophers ready to riot.

This notion of specialization is something that oftentimes limits an individual’s potential. Interdisciplinary perspectives provide a fluid context that is not unlike adding extra ingredients to a decent soup or chemicals to a research compound. Missing out on the woven pathways of academia working in conjunction is something I see a profound amount of at institutions across the United States. There tends to be this notion that efficiency is deemed as actual only when an individual is the master of one particular thing, as compared to being well-rounded. Seneca would faint at the idea that we are becoming less spread in our way of thinking, and that is why he would probably like PEAK.

Initially, I did not like the idea of PEAK. I thought it would stretch a person too thin, and yet I have found that it has acted in a manner more like an enhancer. It is a method which creates more lenses of perception. As a transfer student, I am envious of others who are able to delve into a multitude of perspectives. I am thankful for what well-roundedness I have, but whenever I speak to a well-educated, decent student the conversation can go anywhere. Sometimes I will speak to friends about the relationship between nature and poetry, other times we assess deep philosophical problems through the scopes of geology, history, and on one occasion, sexuality and intimacy research. These interactions are of paramount importance, I have found, and though the curriculum may be heavy or difficult at times, I think this is a system that can really work, especially when we harness more of its potential.

Lost in thought,


Austin Kirkham is a senior Psychology major from Meridian, Idaho