In 1970, Harold R. Jacobs in Mathematics: A Human Endeavor, wrote: “It is hard to believe that someone flying over the Grand Canyon for the first time could remark, “What good is it?” Some people say the very same thing about mathematics.
A great mathematician of our century, G. H. Hardy, said, “A mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns.” Some of these patterns have mediate and obvious applications; others may never be of any use at all. But, like the Grand Canyon, mathematics has its own kind of beauty and appeal to those who are willing to look. (A Letter to the Student, pg. xiii)
If Jacobs is right, and I think he is, students of math and science require the habit “to look” – or, wonder. And along with the habit of wonder, it is good to know something about what you are wondering about.
The moveable type beehive provides an example. In 1851, the Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth of Philadelphia worked his honeybee hives as many for centuries before him had done. One of the big problems for beekeepers was the difficulty in observing the bees in the hive and collecting honey without destroying the comb. Considering the natural inclination of a honeybee to “bee space,” he tried a new solution to an age-old problem. Langstroth wrote of his idea in his diary:
Pondering, as I had so often done before, how I could get rid of the disagreeable necessity of cutting the attachments of the comb from the walls of the hive…. The almost self-evident idea of using the same beespace as in shallow chambers came to my mind…. (The Hive and the Honeybee. Dadant Publication. 2010. Pg. 13)
Langstroth had a classical education, was an accomplished Latinist and taught mathematics. He also was a Christian pastor. His idea of the moveable-type hive revolutionized the beekeeping industry. Today, beekeepers all over the world use his hive.
Langstroth had been given the gift of a classical education – the same gift your children are receiving at Faith Lutheran School of Plano. While conjugating Latin verbs, reading Aristotle, or writing papers for science class, he may not have known an answer to the question: “What good is it?”Cumulatively, his classical education taught him to think, ponder and wonder. He was given the tools of learning. Later in life, when he took an interest in something he knew little about, his classical education provided the means to a new invention.
Thank you for your partnership in classical Lutheran education.