This page is part of my series on arete. If you have not yet read the previous page, please read about Arete Guide.
Building a Road-map to Arete
There’s so much in the world that is interesting and that you could pursue, but there are only so many hours in the day and you will only be alive for so long. It therefore behooves you to limit your pursuits to those that will have the greatest benefit and those that will be most interesting. In the book Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, E. D. Hirsch Jr. argues that young children have a sort of window of opportunity during which they are able to memorize large amounts of information faster than most adults can. They also seem more interested in good old fashioned memorization. Combined with the fact that their brains are plastic, childhood, Hirsch argues, is the perfect time to teach a person useful background information. Because of the limited time during which children are capable of rapid learning, they should be taught what is most useful. Hirsch went on to create content standards for children. He also outlines what adults should know in his fascinating book. I highly recommend reading Cultural Literacy, and if you are a parent or teacher, any other of E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s books.
We may not have been lucky enough to grow up being taught what was most useful in an efficient manner, but now that we are adults, we are in charge of educating ourselves. In addition to the sort of conceptual knowledge that you get from reading books, there are skills that you can develop in order to approach your full potential or arete.
Sometimes it makes sense to start with a big-picture view of things before getting down to the details. This can help organize the details by fitting them into larger categories. Our brains, as I’ve read, love categories. I think we can split up all the things we want to develop into Knowledge and Skills. And while we’re at it, lets add habits, because it might come in useful.
That’s not the only way to go, but it works for me and I’m the one writing this, so we’ll stick with it. We might want to add Health or something like that as a category for any goals we have about strength or weight or something. I’m just going to add some subcategories that I think are important.
- Cultural Literacy
- Foreign Language
- Time management
Now many of the sub-categories might fit into different places, or fit into more than one place, but that’s OK. We are just using this outline as a guide to help us organize. It does not have to be perfect to be useful. Now let’s see what sorts of things we can actually do to help develop ourselves in the categories that we’ve laid out.
Continue to the next page…. Knowledge