The Renaissance Man is on the clock

The phrase “Renaissance Man” is famously used to describe Leonardo da Vinci, a leading figure in the arts, writing, mathematics and engineering during his time.

The modern public school system is clearly modeled in such a way as to produce more Renaissance Men, what with the mandatory English, math, science, history and language classes. However, it is not enough to just excel in each subject. You also have to be a club president, a star athlete and a musical prodigy.

Now, the work that goes into each activity is not the problem. The scheduling is.

Organizing all the classes you want to take into one wrinkle-free schedule is hard enough, but add club meetings, sports practice and music lessons, and it is nearly impossible.

More often than not, we are forced to choose and give up at least one activity. When you are choosing between hobbies that you have been doing for years, it is never easy and you will always feel its void.

I consider myself lucky because I only had to sacrifice one of my activities freshman year and was allowed to pursue most of my primary interests sophomore and junior year.

Even though I could participate fully, for the most part in each activity, there were still conflicts and times when I could not attend certain events.

Attempting to plan my life as a senior next year, I noticed that there were still numerous classes I wanted to take– experiences that I wanted to have. I wanted to learn about the 206 bones in the human body, how to make locks out of wood, what ingredients are needed to make cupcakes and how to reuse bottles in constructing sculptures.

Unfortunately they did not fit into my IB schedule.

Despite my good fortune this year and last, I am doomed to miss one, possibly two, of my activities next year– activities that I have done for more than three years.

I have run through all the possible schedules for next year and none allow me to do everything. I do not know how da Vinci did it, but I do not see being a Renaissance Man in my future.

And that should not feel like as big of a loss as it does. Although the goal should remain to be well-rounded, the emphasis should be on optimizing the balance between quantity and quality instead of reaching for one of the extremes.