We Stand on the Shoulders Of Those Who Came Before
My old high school geometry buddy, Pythagoras, came to mind recently during one of the endless political debates over what a candidate meant - or didn't mean.
This time it was a comment President Obama made about building a business on your own. His critics have widely interpreted his comment as meaning that no one builds a business today without help from that big old bugaboo, the government. That's not what he said.
But then, in defense of his critics, I admit that it took him too many sentences to make his point - that we don't accomplish anything without help from other sources, such as family, friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, pioneers and the builders of infrastructure, the latter often the work of - you guessed it - one or more infamous governments. If the president could have said it in fewer words, or in simpler language, perhaps his critics would have searched elsewhere to focus attention. Maybe not. In political ad season, the truth doesn't seem to matter anyway.
And what does an ancient Greek have to do with this?
It reminded me of a group of private educators who once castigated former Gov. Jim Hunt for a proposal to help families by providing assistance from such innocuous sources as the Cooperative Extension Service. These religious fundamentalists angrily proclaimed that they didn't need help from anyone to raise their families, that they were dependent upon no one on matters pertaining to education.
Apparently they meant sources of funding for education, because this religious organization sponsored its own school - which was, of course, not dependent upon taxpayer money.
Now, I agree that people have the right to finance private education if they prefer. I also agree that we don't need government agencies breathing down our necks to tell us every detail about rearing children.
If we accept money from state and federal governments, however, then we might as well accept the regulations. That means everything from including classes in English and math in the curriculum to requiring a certain amount of protein on the lunchroom plate. Even if we don't accept money from government, we are still subject to laws that require us to refrain from brutally beating children or depriving them of food.
But as for education itself, no one can lay claim to independence. Total independence would mean going back to square one when it comes to developing a structure for the facts and theories of science and mathematics, grammar and syntax, maintenance of records that become part of history, not to mention the recording of literature.
Where would we be without Galileo, Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, early explorers, the people who maintained chronicles that became our Holy Bible, Shakespeare, Hugo, Dickens, Bobby Burns, Washington Irving, Whitman and Frost?
Where would we be without the Jewish people who developed and retained the basic principles of faith in one God and a structure of morals and righteous living? Where would we be without the Roman Catholic Church, which clung to the Christian faith through centuries of turmoil? Or without the insight, integrity, principled moral strength and courage of Martin Luther?
I'll stop right there, before I get in way over my head.
But Pythagoras came to mind because his reasoning gave us a key element needed in - well, to be honest, I'm not quite sure what. The Pythagorean Theorem attributed to the ancient Greek was most likely helpful in developing aspects of mathematics and science over the centuries and in today's engineering disciplines.
As I recall, the theorem had something to do with the square of two sides of a right triangle equaling the square of the hypotenuse. Come again?
All right, so I've forgotten the details. I really rather enjoyed math courses, not because I am all that fond of the discipline itself, but because I've always enjoyed a puzzle. I see math examples and problems as little more than intriguing puzzles. But my real love is not Sudoku but word puzzles. It's helpful to know some of this stuff if you work crossword puzzles.
What I do remember about the theorem is that it was rather neat. It was provable, and it made an interesting sketch on your pad. (Not your iPad.) Come to think of it, the development of much modern technology may well be traced back to the thought processes of Pythagoras and other old guys.
Still think you don't have help in building your own business or administering your own school? Think again. You don't pick yourself up by your bootstraps, whether in education or business, without a little help from community both ancient and modern.
And first, ask yourself where you found the boots.
Florence Gilkeson, who lives in Laurinburg, is a retired newsroom staffer with The Pilot. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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