5/25/2020 21:42


I propose a new instructional track for the public high schools. In this track schools would teach essentially the same content as taught in the general curriculum but organized around four key modes of understanding: Semiotics, Teleology, Epistemology, and Mathematical logic.

In the manner of all educationese I expect these core modes will be abbreviated as S.T.E.M. or if championed by a base ball afficionado possibly as M.E.T.S.

It is important to recognize at the outset that these modes are not in themselves content areas. Rather they are orientations around which the content can be organized and integrated.

Semiotics covers signaling of all types. Quorum sensing among bacteria, low nitric oxide levels in diabetes, courtship signaling by peacocks are examples of content in biology which can be naturally understood within the semiotic context. So too can the semantics of language, emoticons, the structure and connotation of music, and the dog whistles of politics. The question to be answered is, how does the subject matter being studied serve to signal meaning to another entity?

Teleology is the understanding of goals. What is the ultimate end and purpose of humanity? Of a granite boulder by the side of state highway 55? Of a house sparrow building a nest in a roof gutter? At one extreme some will argue that there is no "goal" for any of these, that any appearance of purpose is imposed by the way human brains process sensory information. At the other extreme, Christian theology holds that the whole universe has the goal of coming together in Christ. Another point of view holds that genes in all living things have a goal of survival; this has led to fruitful ways to understand and quantify evolution. And then we ask, is the end goal and purpose of scientific reasoning to generate fruitful hypotheses?

Epistemology asks the question of how we know the truth of anything. Is phrenology false? How do we know? Is quantum mechanics true? How certain can we be? If we can't be absolutely certain, can we at least be justified in believing it is true? How do we account for truths not yet known? In what way is the theory of evolution true and in which ways can we not know whether it is true? How confident should we be of the identity of an applicant for credit who supplies a digital representation of a photographic identity card through the internet?

As a practical matter, we are forced to accept some propositions as being true in order to make decisions. The proverbial way to express this is to assert that 2 + 2 = 4. Such propositions are axiomatic. Once we've accepted some axioms, mathematical methods such as set theory and propositional calculus become powerful tools to prove or disprove our reasoning and to support or demolish the conclusions we reach more informally.

Not to mention that set theory and formal logic are intriguing to watch.

And so I propose adding an instructional track in which understanding the content of the high school curriculum is guided by Semiotics, Teleology, Epistomology, and Mathematical logic. S.T.E.M.

Or the M.E.T.S.