Transforming Education According to the Needs of the Human Soul
Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.' He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. Alain's latest book is titled Religion for Atheists and is published in the Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Turkey and Brazil in 2011 and in the UK, US and other territories in 2012.
Alain started writing at a young age. His first book, Essays in Love [titled On Love in the US], was published when he was twenty-three.
Wisdom is particularly present in the humanities, in the teaching of literature, philosophy, history, the arts in general. This is my area of interest. I think the teaching of the humanities has gone radically wrong. It’s gone from being nominally about teaching you wisdom and how to be a good human being to a rather dry rehearsal of ideas that are irrelevant and cut off from applicability in the world.
We graduate from college without any real instruction in the challenges of life, which is catastrophic for our society. I mean, no one would send out engineering graduates telling them, "Look, you can find out these answers on your own. You’ll occasionally find a self-help book at an airport that’ll teach you how to be an aeronautical engineer. You’ll work it out for yourself." And yet, that’s what we do when it comes to all the challenges of a humanistic life.
So, my school of the future would be an institution which would transmit wisdom in the great challenges of everyday life and it would do this with rigor and intellectual seriousness. We need to reorder departments. You know, why do we have a Literature Department? This is a completely nonsensical demarcation. The most interesting questions do not happen under the rubric of literature, or indeed, of history. It’s time to rearrange departments and academic teaching according to the issues that they are dealing with.
So really, you know, literature is primarily dealing with relationships, so let’s have a Department of Relationships in which the literature people can dominate, but will also have help from psychologists and we’ll have some help from the historians, etc. Or rearrange the university according to the needs of the human soul not according to the needs of academic tradition.
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