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Classical subject-matters and values: a 21st century skill!? Seriously?

  • Philippe de Korodi

“Unlike traditions, classical educational values span across generations and phases of history: intellectual curiosity, honesty, courage, kindness toward others, an intrinsic desire to achieve your full personal potential – these classical values have always been the driving force behind the advancement of humanity. To be able to understand the importance of these values we have to dive into history, philosophy, religious beliefs and literature, and study their teachings in an organised and structured way. Conversely, given the immense acceleration of knowledge and the the digital revolution, the sustainability of these values, and by extension the subjects that support their development, can be called into question. Would not it be better to study computer programming to ensure job security in an era dominated by robots and algorithms? Put more specifically, doesn’t development in a globalised world – a world which is undergoing rapid change and is becoming increasingly fluid – require an education that focuses exclusively on methodology, cognitive abilities, research skills and finding solutions to new problems? Largely yes, but it shouldn’t be limited to that – and for good reason in my opinion.

The advent of the digital age has given rise to disintermediation, in other words the disappearance of intermediaries. The internet facilitates direct contact between the person/client and service provider. For example, I no longer go to a travel agent to book my holiday; I can book it myself online. The market place in which individuals can come together to sell and buy goods and services, bypassing the traditional intermediaries, is changing at breakneck speed. It has even been predicted that banks, trusted providers in financial transactions, will become increasingly less important, making way for blockchain technology to provide financial security.

In terms of information, political debate, and analysis of social phenomena, the disintermediation of the press is causing a potentially serious situation. We used to shape our opinions in part through the media, combining journalistic facts and opinions expressed in newspapers, on TV and on the radio. But the internet blurs hierarchies. Online, each opinion is worth just as much as the next. The blog of a conspiracy theorist has the same audience as that of a university professor. Rumours spread faster than proven facts. Everyone’s emotions can find an ever-increasing audience, without filter. Put simply, our relationship with the truth is deteriorating. Just as Orwell predicted, propaganda is occupying space and minds.

If this continues, how will new generations be able to discover the real world, form opinions, take responsibility and steer society toward progress? The only way to overcome this problem is to study human societies, so their history, philosophy and literature. Tyranny, corruption and abuse of power have existed since the dawn of time; their signals are recognisable to anyone who has studied them. The same can be said of real courage, honesty, and the actions and achievements of our ancestors; these are the traits and events that are worth studying and revisiting.

So, are you convinced yet that classical subjects will continue to provide the key skills for the future?”

Philippe de Korodi
Managing director