Athens Around The World
Over 24 centuries ago, in Athens, Greece, the philosopher Socrates laid the foundation for a humanistic education as we know it. While acknowledging the importance of all forms of labor and training, he specifically identified humanistic study as the most important thing a person could do to improve their life. Four hundred years later, the Roman politician and philosopher Cicero coined the phrase ‘studia humanitatis,’ which he said were the areas of study that shape people towards their humanity—the things that teach people how to be truly human, how to be a member of a society, and how to live their best lives. Like Socrates, Cicero admired and valued the technical skills that people learn for particular occupations, but for him the Humanities were far more fundamental because they shaped who and what a person is, and what he or she becomes, rather than merely advancing what a person can do. Socrates and Cicero could never have imagined the incredible things made possible by science and technology in the modern world, and they would awestruck by the achievements of the 21st century, but they might also question whether all of our knowledge brings us closer to understanding our humanity, or whether it is pushing us away from that understanding. How can we bring the lessons of ancient Athens into our future?