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~~~~~~ CHRONOLOGIUM ACADEMICUS: WHY IT'S NEEDED ~~~~~~
The principal reasons why Chronologium Academicus should be widely adopted and displayed are:
1. To help transform accumulated information into an education (both during and after the formal educational process); and,
2. To help provide societal rewards and cultural reinforcements for education by changing, or at least augmenting, the categories of individuals to whom our culture affords celebrity status.
On transforming accumulated information into an education. We often don’t learn where the individual trees we’ve studied fit in the forest. Changing that perception can help transform accumulated information into an education. The fortunate receive that vision through instruction. The rest have occasional moments of chance intuition. However, Chronologium Academicus is effectively a map of academia through which we can see the individual trees and their location within the intellectual forest. (Consider History, the Humanities, the Social Sciences, and the Sciences as its continents, the individual disciplines as its countries, and the individual entries as its cities, towns, rivers, and forests.)
In a history class, an instructor might well use a world map to point out the boundaries of Alexander the Great’s conquests. Similarly, with Chronologium Academicus an instructor could point out the “areas” of Romanticism in literature and music, the "area" of medieval political science, or of World War I. (See illustration below). With just such minimal instructional use, the chances of fostering the needed change in our perception of the relevance and meaning of education can be significantly improved.
"AREAS" OF ROMANTICISM IN LITERATURE (c. 1770-1875) and MUSIC (c. 1810-1890) (blue verticals);
"AREA" OF MEDIEVAL POLITICAL SCIENCE (c. 350-1450) (purple vertical);
and, WORLD WAR I (1914-1918) (grey horizontal).
However, even without its active use, those routinely exposed to Chronologium Academicus should have a greater chance of making that change, and of encountering linkages between individual entries that previously went unnoticed. (For example, during the American Revolution (1775-1783): Captain Cook discovered Hawaii; Mozart and Haydn flourished in Europe; Kant wrote The Critique of Pure Reason; and, Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations.)
Thus, viewed through the prism of Chronologium Academicus:
1. The entirety and boundaries of academia become more manageable conceptually;
2. Whole disciplines, smaller areas of concentration or interest, and individual items encountered by chance, are all in interdisciplinary context;
3. We can more readily judge the historical importance of new events, discoveries, and findings;
4. We are afforded a constant visual reminder of the Broader Perspective in the midst of our usually narrower daily concerns;
5. The portraits of the famous of history and academia become more familiar to those exposed to it; and,
6. Education's perceived relevance and meaning can be enhanced.
On providing societal rewards and cultural reinforcements for education. The perceived relevance and meaning of education in our society is generally considered too central, systemic, and cultural a problem to be amenable to solution. However, the widespread use, adoption, and display of Chronologium Academicus could represent a systemic first step toward such a solution, particularly through its capacity for making the portraits of the famous of history and academia more familiar to those exposed to it. However, Chronologium Academicus alone will not be enough. In our society, the steps needed to produce societal rewards, images, symbols, and other cultural reinforcements for education can effectively be taken only by, or at least through, the media, especially television and films.
Largely through the media, we need to augment the categories of individuals to whom our culture affords celebrity status. Other than the occasional made-for-TV movie/docudrama (covered below with the film industry), television news and entertainment divisions, including talk shows, presently afford such status only to political leaders, entertainers, and sports figures. Barring some ancillary reason for notice, such as economists during a protracted recession, academic figures receive little if any coverage, other than the usually cursory mention made upon such occasions as the announcements of the Nobel Prizes.
For example, 2007 and 2008 saw extensive coverage of such effortless “NewsHelper” stories as the activities of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Michael Phelps, Tony Romo, and O.J. Simpson, and of the passing of Anna Nicole Smith and Heath Ledger. However, during the same period, no significant mention was made of the completion of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland under British physicist Lyn Evans, nor of the passing of such varied contributors to academia as:
- Arthur Kornberg, the biochemist who achieved the effective synthesis of DNA;
- Martinique poet and dramatist Aimé Césaire, a principal founder of the literary Negritude movement;
- The composers Gian Carlo Menotti and Karlheinz Stockhausen;
- British anthropologist Mary Douglas, who produced a structuralist analysis of the concept of pollution;
- American post-Modern Pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty; and,
- Willis Lamb, the physicist who discovered the Lamb shift in the frequency of the hydrogen atom.
The film industry and its television counterpart have a comparatively better record. Though they are now few and far between, they have produced such notable efforts as:
The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) with Norma Shearer & Fredric March as Elizabeth Barrett & Robert Browning;
*The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935) with Paul Muni as Louis Pasteur;
Rembrandt (1936) with Charles Laughton as the young Rembrandt; The Life of Émile Zola (1937) with Paul Muni & Joseph Schildkraut as Émile Zola & Alfred Dreyfus; (and its remake as: I Accuse! (1958) with Emlyn Williams & Jose Ferrer as Émile Zola & Alfred Dreyfus); Marie Antoinette (1938) with Norma Shearer & Robert Morley as Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI; Juarez (1939) with Paul Muni as Benito Juarez; Madame Curie (1944) with Greer Garson & Walter Pidgeon as Marie & Pierre Curie; A Song to Remember (1945) with Cornel Wilde as Frederic Chopin; Lust for Life (1956) with Kirk Douglas as Vincent van Gogh;
*A Man for All Seasons (1966) with Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More;
1776 (1972) with William Daniels, Howard Da Silva, & Ken Howard as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, & Thomas Jefferson;
*The Adams Chronicles (1976) with George Grizzard as John Adams;
*The Voyage of Charles Darwin (1978) with Malcolm Stoddard as Charles Darwin;
Wagner (1983) with Richard Burton as Richard Wagner;
*The Life of Verdi (1984) with Ronald Pickup as Giuseppe Verdi;
*Glory Enough for All (1988) with R.H. Thomson as Frederick Banting;
Wittgenstein (1993) with Karl Johnson as Ludwig Wittgenstein; Frida (2002) with Salma Hayek & Alfred Molina as Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera; and,
*John Adams (2008) with Paul Giamatti as John Adams.
* = Particularly noteworthy productions.
However, the television industry can make some of the needed changes more readily, and more cheaply, than the film industry. Therefore, if television were to proceed first with some success, or at least without significant loss, the film industry could be encouraged to re-enter into the production of such biographical films again in earnest.
Some of the changes that television should consider making
1. Television talk shows should have academic figures on as guests at least once or twice a month.
2. At a similar frequency, talk shows should also have classical music performances (such as a live movement from a chamber or solo piece, or a filmed orchestral work), and operatic performances of an aria or an ensemble piece preceded by a short setup explanation of the action. (For example, if Rigoletto were being performed in New York or Los Angeles, Letterman or Leno could have the four cast members that perform the Quartet on as guests to perform it live, or to show a filmed clip of it from a dress rehearsal).
3. Television news divisions need to increase their coverage of academic discoveries and developments, and of the commemoration of past academic milestones.
4. Existing and future scripted programming portraying such characters as doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists, and political figures should have those characters refer to founders of and contributors to their disciplines and professions more frequently and more pointedly.
5. All speakers, particularly those in news and documentaries, should be discouraged from using the historic present tense.
6. Composers should always be credited, even on commercials.
In sum. The societal rewards and cultural reinforcements for education that the media can bring about–combined with the widespread adoption and display of Chronologium Academicus–can produce the necessary change in our cultural perception of education’s relevance and meaning beyond the economic. The author and publisher will do their best to encourage individuals within the media, educators, and political decision-makers to take the needed steps.