Designing the Ideal Curriculum

In writing An Internal Conflict, one of the novels-in-progress I’m focusing most on right now, I’ve come to the point where I need to be thinking about what the protagonist and her friends will be studying for the next several years of her life at the Academy. Worse, to even outline any farther I need to know what they will be studying. So I want your help designing a curriculum.

The Academy is the Empire’s premiere educational institution. It serves much the same function, and is similar to, a college or university; we can basically presuppose a trivium-quadrivium background for Persephone and the other natives (the Chosen, as immigrants from Earth, are another matter entirely, but they have to meet the same entrance standards as everyone else), plus quite a bit more in each student’s individual areas of interest. (As her first year at the Academy begins, for instance, Persephone has a somewhat solid grounding in five-space geometry. But she was an only slightly apathetic member of a family of prodigies to begin with.)

So far I’ve gone into some detail in thinking of possible courses of study in math, and a great deal less detail in the sciences and humanities, applied metaphysics, and what might today be called “military science.” (If anyone’s interested, I can go into somewhat more detail.)

If you were designing or wishing for an ideal college, university, or graduate or post-graduate school, what would you think of?

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2 thoughts on “Designing the Ideal Curriculum

  1. I haven’t been a consistent reader of your posts, but here are my thoughts on education in a generically “medieval” sort of fantasy setting in any case:

    The first thing is to establish baseline competencies and then develop different tracks of study for particular occupations. In most fantasy settings, education for its own sake is a luxury that few can afford, so the liberal arts probably aren’t going to really exist. Students will be studying for readiness in their future occupation. If I’m wrong on this account, I can only apologize.

    Basic competencies should include things like history, geography, some form of civics, perhaps, and whatever mathematics and “applied metaphysics” knowledge is essential for day-to-day operation of citizenry of the supposedly advanced degree that would be attending this institution. Again, assuming this is a roughly traditional fantasy setting, I don’t think the sciences (other than the basics of physics and anatomy/physiology) are going to play an enormous role, and I’ll get into where later. This could form the foundation of the first year, perhaps, of study for all students and could even serve as a subtle expository tool assuming if one were to be careful.

    In terms of tracks of study, this being a “university”, I’d guess it is only intended for those most promising individuals entering vocations that provide some degree of station to their practitioners. Diplomacy, medicine, military strategy, and architecture are the four that come first to mind. Perhaps intelligent children of successful artisans, tradesmen, or farmers could be welcomed in for the base year before heading off to a trade school or apprenticeship, but those vocations are “below” the standards of this school.

    I’d guess that each of these specialized fields would be another, maybe, 2 or 3 years of study. Diplomacy would involve rhetoric, political science (more the cultural geography and relationships than the physical geography that everybody needs to know), a slightly more informed view of history, and even some arts appreciation so as to better fit into the courts/high society.

    Medicine would be intensively focused on anatomy/physiology and techniques (both physical and “metaphysical”) for treating wounds. There could be a practicum portion of this branch, as well.

    Architects are really the civil engineers of the setting and would be the ones who learned the most about the physical properties of the world and the objects in it. They would design bridges, roads, buildings, and whatever else and act as foremen at construction sites — again being versed in both the physical and “metaphysical” techniques that would be required.

    Finally, students studying military strategy would focus on military history, logistics, and other attributes of war and fieldcraft. This is more of an officer’s school than boot camp, so the students might take one or two courses along the diplomacy track depending on the responsibilities of generals (i.e. whether or not they have any ambassadorial duties or say in going to war). This could perhaps be a longer track, and students entering it would have already gone through basic military training or possibly even a tour of duty. So, depending on whether or not there’s some sort of mandatory military service, these students might also be a bit older.

    Again, these are just generic thoughts, not tailored to your setting, which I consistently intend to read more about but never seem to have the time to. Hopefully there are a couple of helpful ideas. :)

    • While this begins as a quasi-medieval setting, it’s advanced considerably by the time of An Internal Conflict. I wrote about the technological level back in March. It’s certainly fantasy, with applied metaphysics and things which science (particularly as we know it) simply cannot explain, but it is also at least influenced by science fiction. (By the time of Internal Conflict space travel is common, for instance, and being able to move in very low or no gravity is considered an essential survival skill for Academy students.)

      Thanks for these ideas; some of these disciplines are things I hadn’t thought of. (Architecture, for instance. And diplomacy as distinct from politics.) My post on Monday will be a brief description of the school and its history. I’m way ahead of you on the “tour of duty” thing: the last, or perhaps penultimate, “phase” of the Academy education (not counting post-graduate work, which is common for anyone interested in teaching or research) is a period of study under a more experienced person in the field. In the “knighthood/officer training” track, which is what I’ve probably thought most about (my somewhat long list of math courses notwithstanding), for instance, this is a tour of duty as a squire under a “knight-master,” and for things like architecture or a craft it would be an abbreviated apprenticeship.

      The Academy is intended as a “school for advanced studies.” Its available “concentrations” wouldn’t be those that conferred “status” on their practitioners, but rather anything where analysis and study can keep advancing the knowledge of the subject. With my biases, computer science (except they’d adopt the European term for it, “computing”) would merit its own department, but “information systems” wouldn’t.

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