Households: Comparative and Historical Studies of the by Robert McC. Netting, Richard R. Wilk, Eric J. Arnould

By Robert McC. Netting, Richard R. Wilk, Eric J. Arnould

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This myth comes in different versions: one might see the system of education in one’s country as the cradle of international education, claiming that it was specifically in a given country and a given place that the most important ideas were born; or one might see the system of education in one’s country as a bastion of international education, contending that even if mathematics education developed later in one’s country than in some other places, it nevertheless attained greater heights; or one might not even make this claim and criticize the system of education in one’s country, simultaneously assuming, however, that it is the most important system of education all the same, since the country as a whole is very important.

Such sources approach the kind of material that came from Old Babylonian contexts, the richness of which enables a fairly satisfying reconstitution of mathematical curricula. A fifth, “ghost” category nearly resembles the Egyptian material. ” This category extends to the sophisticated problems contained in Diophantus’s Arithmetica, the structure of which strongly evokes pedagogical concerns, but the scholarly context of which remains unknown. The key fact, then, about these sources is that the three first kinds of sources in the above classification have undergone a long-term process of “classicization” and are by far the best represented, while the other two categories are poorly represented.

More than this cannot be said: no traces of any pedagogical device have been retrieved that could help us figure out how geometry was taught or discussed in scholastic assemblies (sunousiai). In his biography of the fifth-century philosopher Proclus of Lycia,23 Marinus of Neapolis describes (among other stages) both Proclus’s training and his teaching methods after he succeeded Syrianus as the head of the Neoplatonist school in Athens. Like Marinus, Proclus in his own time reputedly displayed good enough knowledge of mathematics to have prepared a commentary on the first book of Euclid’s Elements and knew enough about Ptolemy’s Almagest to criticize him.

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