Liberal Arts Blog — The Tip of the Right Tail of the Bell Curve of Images

Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day

Today’s Topic: The Tip of the Right Tail of the Bell Curve of Images

The average picture is worth a thousand words. But some are worth a million. Or perhaps a trillion. Which are they? Why? These pictures are the most important things to teach in school for the simple reason that time is limited. This exercise is critical for every teacher in every course about absolutely anything. It is also critical for whoever is responsible for education for the city, county, state, country or the world. So, I am most eager to hear from you as to what you think the most powerful images you have ever encountered in your life are and why you think they would deserve to have a place of honor in the curriculum of every school on the planet. Today’s post presents some thoughts on basic criteria for selection. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


1. The broader the applicability, the more valuable the tool.

2. So reading, writing, and arithmetic are the most basic of academic skills because they are universally applicable.

3. My pick: the seven star formation at the heart of the Orion constellation. Whatever the topic, the triple challenge is to reduce the infinity of relevant data to the seven critical variables and these in turn to the most important three (the belt) and finally to identify which of these is the most important of all — Alnilam, the central star of the belt.

NB: The seven star formation is the best metaphor for the meaning of critical thinking. Metaphors are bridges to understanding. Critical thinking is what makes us who we are. But only focused training will allow us as individuals and as a species to reach our full potential for critical thinking.

STUNNING BEAUTY — unforgettability, power to inspire awe

1. Orion is the most spectacular show on the planet earth.

2. No other constellation holds a candle to it.

UNIVERSAL ACCESS — available to every child born on the planet earth for free

1. Although the image with the most potential to inspire awe is visible to every child born, few I venture to say, have seen it.

2. It was not pointed out to me until I was 55 years old!!!!

3. I did not appreciate its metaphoric power until I was 68 years old!!!!

NB: Tragedy or opportunity? Both. Let’s focus on the positive. Let’s spread the word. Let’s spread the joy. Happy New Year!

FOOTNOTE — Let’s trade “Orions”! A new game for the Holliday Season! Imagine a circle around the central star of the belt to focus the mind on the process of triage, of distillation, of filtration. Too much data, too much noise, too many red herrings. My favorite case study — what values matter most? You can reduce a long, long list of virtues to seven. But which of these seven are the three most important? Of these which is the most important of all? Suggested home work assignment for the New Year: craft your own “What Matters Orion.” You could perhaps think of it as a gift to your children and grandchildren — as a memento of the qualities you would like most to be remembered for. Let’s trade Orions! Game?


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned recently or ever related to art, sculpture, design, architecture, film, or anything visual.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And to cement in your own memory something cool or important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that is close to your heart.



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