In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros

The Value of College

The world of Academics began when the Athenian King Theseus abducted Helen of Troy. Her twin brothers, Castor and Pollux (The Gemini) took off in hot pursuit. While engaged in their search, they chanced upon a local resident who revealed to them where Helen was hidden. His name was Hekademos (Akademos).

By his action, Akademos spared the city from destruction. In honor of the deed, he was venerated as its savior, and, his olive grove declared a sacred area and a privileged sanctuary. Ultimately, the city of Athens grew up around it, and it was there that Plato would later hold his symposiums - creating the world's first academy.

Over the years, the groves of academe continued to be fruitful, evolving into a mythical kingdom called "Academia," an entity divided into specialized fiefdoms whose inhabitants reside primarily in ivory towers.

Its rulers, known as Academicians, spend most of their life ensconced therein, having little actual contact with the outside world. Yet they are called on regularly to share their expertise about it with those down below. Considered the depository of the world's knowledge, they pontificate freely on a range of topics, and are consulted regularly by everyone, from ordinary citizens to heads of state.

This is somewhat paradoxical given that academic, in addition to describing what goes on in our educational institutions, also describes "the conventional," "that which conforms to set rules and traditions," "that which is dated and no longer relevant, and "the theoretical as contrasted with the practical." "That's strictly academic," we like to say - leaving the final value of academics and their offerings somewhat in question - all possibly just a myth of sorts.