Well-Rounded is Over-Rated!

Posted: January 7, 2015 in Thoughts on art ministry and life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I read a post from a dear friend who was lamenting that we’re not educating people to be well-rounded. I wholeheartedly disagreed. I think we are trying to make everyone well rounded to the detriment of us all. Consider this, don’t we spend the majority of our time trying to bolster students weaknesses while ignoring their strengths? How can that be a good thing?

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with making people try new things when they are young to help them to find their “hidden gifts.” Nor do I think there is a problem with making sure everyone has the basics. The problem is we’re still trying to educate people to be cogs in factories that no longer exist. The arts are perpetually on the chopping blocks so we can guide everyone toward the so-called practical choices. This is so chronically absurd when one considers this nation has outsourced huge quantities of its manufacturing in favor of a creative economy.

Here’s the thing guys. I am 51 years old and I still have NEVER used algebra or trigonometry or physics in any but the most practical ways, yet these were the courses where I quite literally beat my brains in, just to barely pass. Instead I became the thing I always knew I would be, an artist. I wonder how much better off I would have been had I been allowed to fill at least some of those time slots with art classes. We’ll never know but hopefully through determination and hard work, I gained the ground I lost on subjects I would never use.

And it’s not just me. My oldest son is a farmer. He’s always been gifted for it. He’s always had an aptitude for it. From the time he was 12 years old he worked on farms gathering skills and building a work ethic. When he was in school I was terrified for him to go into this field, not because I thought little of farmers, but because I didn’t see how he would acquire all the things needed to be a farmer. I pushed him to do well in things he would never ever use because I thought his dream was impractical. How would I ever be able to help him buy a farm. Here’s the truth. While I was worrying, he was working and learning and gathering. Today he is a brilliant businessman/farmer with a net worth much higher than mine, doing what he has always wanted to do. Is he well-rounded, not really, but he is really good at what he does, and isn’t that FAR more important.

My youngest son is studying to be a teacher. He clearly has always had an aptitude for this type of work. He’s amazing at working with children. He’s always had a strong interest in history and so it makes sense that his concentration is social studies, however his course of study requires him to have a second concentration. English seemed to be the obvious choice. He’s an amazing writer, a voracious reader, and he has been doing community theater for half his life. He was told he could not take social studies and english, that if he was going to be in social studies, he would have to take either math or science. Why? So he could be well-rounded. So instead of excelling where he is gifted he is being forced to take expensive classes where he struggles, pulling down his GPA and possibly making it more difficult to get the job he desires. It makes ZERO sense.

Well-rounded is a myth. I could care less how well my doctor did in math, so long as he can heal my body. Likewise we are pushing some people away from the trades that are needed by everyone. We don’t need a bunch of generalists who dabble in everything. We need a world full of virtuosos who depend on each other to be strong where we’re weak. I believe this is by design, interdependent people living in community and bring their best makes a lot more sense than a world full of people who can do everything just well enough to get by.

The world is well rounded. Be a virtuoso. Virtuosos working together makes the world go ’round.

“Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others.” 1 Peter 4:10

  1. Wendi says:

    I agree!! Basics are great but it would be nice to focus on what someones really interested in. Its a complaint I currently have with my own schooling.

    • Dave Weiss says:

      Yes I can well imagine. I have yet to understand why people who are paying for trheir own education are forced to pay for courses that do not lead to their desired goals. It’s ludicrous. People put all this weight in high stakes testing in education. They believe this is why the U.S. is not keeping up. I think it’s just the opposite. I think the nations that seen to be jumping ahead are those who discern the strengths of their people and helping them to work to their strengths.

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