I suppose I should know better. Why should my daughter know what Constantinople was (Latin Rite Catholic, not Eastern)? Why should my son (he’s 9) know what an antiphon is? After all, they are getting most of their education via the public schools, and we all know that the quality of education there (and they go to a small community school) isn’t stellar since Common Core moved in. Yet, I am in nursing school (at least until further notice). I don’t have time to homeschool them anymore.
It makes me sad that they don’t know these things. It makes me wonder about the educational power of the other kids. It makes me fear for the future (if I wasn’t concerned enough already). I can do a little about it. I went to public school, but my parents didn’t think that that meant that they had the right to let my teachers handle it. They participated. A lot. So I can do the same, and hopefully, keep my kids from becoming total ignoramuses.
The other thing that this makes me wonder about is the fact that probably 1/2 of my nursing classmates come straight from high school. What sort of judgement can they bring to a situation when it is clear that they haven’t been educated very well? This is through no fault of their own, I hasten to say. I only became reasonably well-educated when it became clear that I wasn’t. A liberal education is more than the ability to recognize Pope and Milton at a glance. It is more than having pondered Plato. It is the fact that the student comes face to face with the fact that he isn’t the smartest person that ever lived, and there may even be general guidelines for living this odd thing that we have called life. Poetry, music, art, religion, language are the things the things that make the human race distinctive from the other animals that walk this crowded little earth of ours.
The student nurses in my class can not call upon that wealth of knowledge, of understanding. They simply don’t know what a haiku can convey, or what a impressionist painting is, and why we should care. That lack frightens me. If nursing is about anything, it is about people. We comfort people. We try to help people. Poetry, literature, art, music, these are the products of people. It is impossible to understand people without first understanding their culture.