The Parthenon: A Lesson in Humility
Last week, I wandered into Mrs. Lisa Henry’s preschool class to see what they were up to. The students were all engaged in different activities, rotating from one area of the room to another when instructed to do so as part of their morning routine. One young man was hard at work, assembling a Lego structure which looked remarkably like the Parthenon. I was impressed with his careful attention to the task, as well as his Vitruvian appreciation for symmetry, order, arrangement, eurythmy, propriety, and economy. I mentioned this to Miss Lisa, and promised to return in a few days with an image of the Parthenon to share.
A few days later I returned, iPad in hand, having prepared a short mini-lecture on the aesthetic significance of the Parthenon, the quality of which was befitting a Headmaster who wished for students to develop an appreciation for the pursuit of learning. Miss Lisa summoned the student, who obediently left his latest Lego creation to hear what I had to say. The conversation went something like this:
ME: “Do you remember the Lego building that you made the other day?”
ME: “Do you remember how I told you that it reminded me of the Parthenon?”
ME: “Here is a picture of the Parthenon.” (I hold up my iPad; the student looks at the picture in silence while I continue…) “The Parthenon was built in… ” etc. etc. insert several more sentences of facts about the Parthenon that I have since neglected to remember.
STUDENT: “May I go back and play with Legos now?”
I hope that one day, perhaps in a few decades, as the student is collecting his International Architecture Award for his latest grand creation, his speech will include mention of the day when his Headmaster came into his preschool classroom to speak to him about the Parthenon, and he was so moved and inspired was that, at that instant, he resolved to devote his life to the pursuit of architectural excellence. I somehow doubt that this will happen, though. It was a good reminder to me that the so-called “teachable moment” - that opportunity for formal “education” on this or that topic which happens without being planned - is difficult to execute as a contrivance. Said differently: playing with Legos is better than just about anything else, especially for a preschool boy, no matter how interesting the Headmaster thinks the Parthenon is.