A Renaissance Education
Academic Octathlon was just one of those activities with a ridiculously high probability that I would be a participant. I remember that day in sophomore English when Mrs. Grier told us that she was the new Octathlon sponsor as she held up a batch of brownies, trying to entice us to join. I laughed, as I toyed around with the idea of joining a club run by such an interesting teacher. Thereafter, my laugh evolved into a gasp of excitement upon hearing the topic for the year: the European Renaissance. I immediately signed up, a decision that has shifted my focus from an education grounded in math and science alone to one that involves all of the academic disciplines.
The Renaissance was a period of new learning, of reworking ideas from the past to fit the present. I admire Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance man himself. Meeting anyone today who would dabble in everything to master it all would render me completely humble, but today, specialization is crucial.
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I can’t imagine a physician who is fluent in four languages, has a knack for the art of blowing glass, and actively participates in a barbershop quartet. The present offers neither the time nor the rewards that would impel anyone to become da Vinci’s equivalent; learning for learning’s sake exists no more. Nevertheless, if ever there were a club devoted to learning, it would be Octathlon. I loved spending those Monday afternoons with friends in Mrs. Grier’s room, poring over the study packets while savoring our afternoon snacks. Frequently, we would spend a good deal of time pondering about some interesting Renaissance fact, like how Shakespeare dedicated a number of his sonnets to a mysterious Mr. W.H., and then, we would go off on a tangent, like suggesting to each other our own versions of W.H., resulting in outbursts of laughter. However, the packets always beckoned us to return. Mastering several unrelated subjects is the goal of any dedicated Octathlete and the whole concept of the Renaissance man. After spending nearly seven months learning about such an incredible time period, I was inspired to tailor the rest of my high school curriculum to begin my modern Renaissance education.
A smorgasbord of academic credits! That is what my high school transcript can be likened to. English and social studies, math and science, a foreign language…I have it all, a combination of courses that will give me an enriching education as well as excellent preparation for college. With the Renaissance as my muse, I now see myself getting a B.A. rather than a B.S. in chemistry, thus giving me more electives to explore other academic areas and to dive deeper into some of my old favorites, like French and literature. Quite truly, my college years won’t be math and science alone but rather, a concave mirror that reflects my work in high school as well as a few new elements, such as courses in music instruction. In essence, my modern Renaissance education is nothing more than a liberal arts education, one that will satiate my mind’s quest for knowledge and my soul’s desire for fulfillment. After my experience in Academic Octathlon, I couldn’t possibly do otherwise.