We argue here in this proposal for an educational remedy that two dimensions of understanding must be added to “retro-fit” education.
In the first addition, call it pre-understanding, a student is given an overview not only of the field but of his or her life as well as the “techno-commercial” environment that characterizes the globe.
Pre-understanding includes such “overall cautions” offered to you by Calderón de la Barca’s 17th century classic Spanish play, Life is a Dream (Spanish: La vida es sueño). A student would perhaps ask: “what would it be like if I faced this “dreamlike quality” of life, as shown by the Spanish play, and suddenly realized that a life of “perfect myopia” is not what I want.
Hannah Arendt warns similarly of a life “like a leaf in the whirlwind of time.”
Again, I, the student ask: do I want such a Hannah Arendt-type leaf-in-the-whirlwind-like life, buried further under Calderón de la Barca’s “dream state”?
But that’s not all: while I’m learning about these “life dangers,” all around me from my block to the whole world, humanity does its “techno-commerce” via container ships and robots, hundreds of millions of vehicles and smartphones, multilateral exchange rates, and tariff policies. Real understanding has one eye on the personal and the other on the impersonal and not one or the other.
All of these personal and impersonal layers of the full truth must be faced and followed, “en face,” as they say in French (i.e., “without blinking”).
Call all this pre-understanding which includes of course a sense of how my “field” or major or concentration fits into the “architecture of knowledge” and not in isolation without connections or a “ramification structure.”
Post-understanding comes from the other end: my lifelong effort, after just about all that I learned about the six wives of King Henry VIII and the “mean value theorem”/Rolle’s theorem in freshman math, have been completely forgotten and have utterly evaporated in my mind, to re-understand my life and times and book-learning.
Pre-and post-understanding together allows the Wittgenstein phenomenon of “light falls gradually over the whole.”
Without these deeper dimensions of educational remedy, the student as a person would mostly stumble from “pillar to post” with “perfect myopia.” Education mostly adds to all the “fragmentariness” of the modern world and is in that sense, incomplete or even disorienting.
Education in this deep sense is supposed to be the antidote to this overall sense of modern “shapelessness,” to use Kierkegaard’s term.