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Jack of All Trades
  • Education
  • Formation
Emily Grivon

You are likely familiar with this saying and possibly its variations: “Jack of all trades, master of none (and oftentimes better than a master of one).” The saying has evolved since the late 16th century, in both wording and meaning, when Iohannes fac totum or “Johnny-do-all” was used as a slight to the actor-playwright William Shakespeare. 

Whether it is now considered an insult or an affirmation, who knows?! Being a “jack of all trades” my entire life has left me feeling inadequate much of the time. I have never been the best at anything. But by God’s grace, I have learned the value of my interdisciplinary pursuits, and believe this has been an essential part of my salvation.

In college, I decided to study architecture because I was “good at math and drawing.” I grew to love the study because I realized architecture is so much more! As Vitruvius writes in his first century architect’s manual to Caesar Augustus, 

Let [the architect] be educated, skillful with the pencil, instructed in geometry, know much history, have followed the philosophers with attention, understand music, have some knowledge of medicine, know the opinions of the jurists, and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens. 

Vitruvius goes on to admit that no one can attain perfection in all these fields. Still, a sufficient knowledge is possible when one pursues a liberal education with the realization that all studies have an interconnectedness to one another, “a single body made up of these members.” 

In our Upper School Engineering class, we discussed consequences of the kind of narrow-minded education that discounts the value of history, philosophy, politics, and religion. We read an article, “The Architecture of Evil,” which tells the life of Albert Speer. Speer was a capable and ambitious architect who moved up the corporate ladder to become the chief architect of the Nazi Party and, ultimately, Hitler’s Minister of Armaments. To avoid such “rationalized squelching of moral capacities,” the writer argues for a well-rounded engineering education that values technical expertise as well as wisdom, citizenship, and morality.

Most engineers are gifted in math and science; this alone is not sufficient to make them responsible or moral human beings.
-Roger Forsgren, “The Architecture of Evil” 

The education prescribed by Vitruvius leads to a holistic, spiritual, and moral development as students realize and affirm our existence in a complex and exquisite harmony. An education that is too specialized or achievement-driven is not as beneficial as it might seem and, in some cases, is a danger to society. We do our best at The Saint Constantine School to create an environment where all human beings can become fully real and fully connected to Christ, His Church, and His Creation. 

The week before we dismissed for Spring Break, I reflected on the beautiful ways we are allowed to live a whole and integrated life in our school. As a community, we sing, feed chickens, discuss Augustine, shoot rockets, play four-square volleyball, build four-square volleyball nets, and drag ourselves through hot dirt for the glory of our Houses (did you see the Kajaba Can Can competition this semester?!).

Our students are taught to pursue real virtue and real wisdom with joy, wherever it is found. They will likely not leave our school being the “World’s Best […],” and they will likely ask the question “Why, why must we learn this?” many times. And this is all really great news. Christ did not call us to become the World’s Best, but to become like little children, humbly in awe of all He has created. 

After many years of internal conflict, my current position is that being a jack of all trades is an honor and privilege, and is fundamental to becoming a child of the King.