Why Bother with Astronomy?
- Monday, June 08, 2009
Down through the centuries, classical astronomy has been an important part of a classical liberal arts education. All educated people, from ancient and medieval times through colonial America’s days, had an understanding of the clockwork of the heavens. However, this began to change in the wake of the industrial revolution.
The nineteenth century was a time of great technological advance. Mechanical clocks were perfected and a system of standard time was adopted throughout the world. There was no longer a practical necessity for common people to learn astronomy. In 1890, astronomy was dropped from the required school curriculum by the Committee of 10, an educational standards board of the National Education Association (NEA).
Eventually, classical astronomy was totally forgotten, and our culture entered a dark age in which an understanding of astronomy was abandoned. Even at the time, many worried over this loss. In 1900, astronomer Asaph Hall, famed discoverer of the Moons of Mars, wrote these words:
To begin with the elementary Astronomy, it seems to me that it should be taught in the high schools and preparatory schools, as well as in the colleges. Preparatory work in it ought to be accepted for admission to college. By elementary Astronomy I mean those common, every-day facts of the science which can be learned by any intelligent student without mathematical training; for example, why the stars rise and set, the motions of the planets and the moon among the stars, the reasons for the seasons, the names of the principal constellations and why they seem to change with the seasons. These are things that are before our eyes all the time, and every one who is fairly well educated ought to know something about them.
Over a century later, Professor Hall’s challenge remains unheeded by the public schools. However, Christian homeschoolers have a unique opportunity to rediscover and reclaim classical astronomy to the greater glory of God.
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Jay Ryan and his wife Debbie have been married since 1988 and are the homeschooling parents of five in Cleveland, Ohio. Jay is the author of Signs & Seasons, a homeschool astronomy curriculum. For more information, visit www.ClassicalAstronomy.com.
Copyright 2008. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Winter 2008/09. Used with permission. Visit them at
www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com. For all your homeschool curriculum needs visit the Schoolhouse Store.
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