|"Diomedes Wounding Aphrodite" - Arthur Fitger, 1905|
What does this mean? It means quite simply that we will never know whether the next Homer or Einstein is sitting in our classes unless we expose the greatest number of students to the widest possible curriculum. Put another way, students cannot exercise genius in a field they do not even know exists.
It also acknowledges the truth that not everyone will be such a genius. Thousands of warriors fought in the Trojan War, yet literature and art commemorate only a few, such as Diomedes and Hector. An Einsteinian level of achievement by every student in the class is an absurd goal, and its failure of attainment is no argument against offering the class in the first place. Not everyone need achieve the level of the hero or the genius, but if anyone is to have any hope of doing so, then the opportunity must be placed before all.
This is why each school must offer the widest possible curriculum to its students. Art is on an equal footing with math, Latin with physics, and physical education with the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate class. To cut one for the sake of another is to decide a priori that no students will achieve great things in a particular subject.
Quiller-Couch also exposed a dishonoring truth in British life that shames America today. "We may prate of democracy, but actually a poor child in England has little more hope than had the son of an Athenian slave to be emancipated into that intellectual freedom of which great writings are born." Is this really so different one hundred years and an ocean away?
Citizens of the United States have the money to afford whatever sort of education we want. We spend annually $12 billion on traffic tickets, $29 billion on candy, $31 billion on lottery tickets, $44 billion on tobacco, $50 billion on alcohol, $69 billion in casinos, and $76 billion on soda. Homer and Einstein may be sitting in a class near you. Is it worth it to us to find out?