作者: Neil Postman
副标题: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
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Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
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1. cultural literacy 2. coherent: effectively be able to express person oneself 3. coherence: efficiency
4. The Improbable World
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when I use the University of Minnesota and Johns Hopkins as my sources of authority; Stanford and MIT give only fair results.
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In the Middle Ages, people believed in the authority of their religion, no matter what. Today, we believe in the authority of our science, no matter what.
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“What problem does the information solve?”
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By the mid-sixteenth century, printers began to experiment with new formats, among the most important innovations being the use of Arabic numerals to number pages. (The first known example of such pagination is Johann Froben’s first edition of Erasmus’ New Testament, printed in 1516.)
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Pagination led inevitably to more accurate indexing, annotation, and cross-referencing, which in turn was accompanied by
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The invention of what is called a curriculum was a logical step toward organizing, limiting, and discriminating among available sources of information.
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James Beniger’s The Control Revolution,
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when there is no higher purpose
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that it serves.
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By the beginning of the seventeenth century, an entirely new information environment had been created by print.
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the mid-nineteenth century with the invention of the telegraph.
5. The Broken Defenses
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The fact that information does none of these things—but quite the opposite—seems to change few opinions, for such unwavering beliefs are an inevitable product of the structure of Technopoly.
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instances of information control.
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A college catalogue, in other words, is a formal description of an information management program;
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In the university where I teach, you will not find courses in astrology or dianetics or creationism. There is, of course, much available information about these subjects, but the theory of education that sustains the university does not allow such information entry into the formal structure of its courses. Professors and students are denied the opportunity to focus their attention on it, and are encouraged to proceed as if it did not exist.
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In this way, the university gives expression to its idea of what constitutes legitimate knowledge. At the present time, some accept this idea and some do not, and the resulting controversy weakens the university’s function
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as an information control center.
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The most imposing institutions for the control of information are religion and the state.
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religion and state more abstract than
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They do their work in a somewhat more abstract way than do courts, schools, families, or political parties.
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power contributed to a sense of well-being and coherence.
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well-being and coherence
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Both Cardinal Bellarmine and William Jennings Bryan were fighting to maintain the authority of the Bible to control information about the profane world as well as the sacred. In their defeat, more was lost than the Bible’s claim to explain the origins and structure of nature.
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astrology, dianetics, and creationism,
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history may have no opinion whatever on the fate of the working class or, if it has, that it is moving toward a final chapter quite different in its point from what Marx prophesied.
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Francis Fukuyama’s essay “The End of History?”
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Adams, Jefferson, and Paine
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morality ahead of politics,
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James Beniger in The Control Revolution
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bureaucracy is simply a coordinated series of techniques for reducing the amount of information that requires processing.
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Prior to this decision, towns only a mile or two apart could and did differ on what time of day it was, which made the operation of railroads and other businesses unnecessarily complex.
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By simply ignoring the fact that solar time differs at each node of a transportation system, bureaucracy eliminated a problem of information chaos, much to the satisfaction of most people.
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忽视时差 （前面提到24小时 时区）
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from a set
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Eichmann’s answer is probably given five thousand times a day in America alone: I have no responsibility for the human consequences of my decisions. I am only responsible for the efficiency of my part of the bureaucracy, which must be maintained at all costs.
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concepts as sin and evil disappear in Technopoly.
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6. The Ideology of Machines: Medical Technology
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What is significant about magic is that it directs our attention to the wrong place.
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Medicine and the Reign of Technology, Stanley Joel Reiser compares the effects of the stethoscope to the effects of the printing press on Western culture. The printed book, he argues, helped to create the detached and objective thinker.
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The culture itself—its courts, its bureaucracies, its insurance system, the training of doctors, patients’ expectations—is organized to support technological treatments. There are no longer methods of treating illness; there is only one method—the technological one.
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the operation or therapy was successful but the patient died);
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it is no exaggeration to say that American hospitals are commonly regarded as among the most dangerous places in the nation.
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There are, one may be sure, very few doctors who are satisfied with technology’s stranglehold on medical practice. And there are far too many patients who have been its serious victims. What conclusions may we draw? First, technology is not a neutral element in the practice of medicine: doctors do not merely use technologies but are used by them. Second, technology creates its own imperatives and, at the same time, creates a wide-ranging social system to reinforce its imperatives. And third, technology changes the practice of medicine by redefining what doctors are, redirecting where they focus their attention, and reconceptualizing how they view their patients and illness.
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Through it all, the question of what was being undone had a low priority if it was asked at all. The Zeitgeist of the age placed such a question in a range somewhere between peevishness and irrelevance. In a growing Technopoly, there is no time or inclination to speak of technological debits.
7. The Ideology of Machines: Computer Technology
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Joseph Weizenbaum in his great and indispensable book Computer Power and Human Reason.
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everyone else has, because of the “universality” of computers, meaning (a) that their uses are infinitely various, and (b) that computers are commonly integrated into the structure of other machines. It is, therefore, hard to isolate specific ideas promoted by computer technology. The computer, for example, is quite unlike the stethoscope, which has a limited function in a limited context. Except for safecrackers, who, I am told, use stethoscopes to hear the tumblers of locks click into place, stethoscopes are used only by doctors. But everyone uses or is used by computers, and for purposes that seem to know no boundaries.
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计算机 与 听诊器 不同。 功能无限与有限，导致能产生的思想多少。
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alphabetization—that is, the realization that the symbols of the alphabet could be separated from their phonetic function and used as a system for the classification, storage, and retrieval of information.
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alphabetization 字母顺序 The Story Of A 讲字母顺序与背后的隐喻修辞的
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the application of Boolean algebra to relay-based circuitry, resulting in Claude Shannon’s creation of digital logic circuitry.
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布尔代数 与 继电器 的运用
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John von Neumann
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“computer” referred to a person
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When asked a question with a proper noun in it, ELIZA’S program could respond with “Why are you interested in,” followed by the proper noun and a question mark. That is, it could invert statements and seek more information about one of the nouns in the statement. Thus, ELIZA acted much like a Rogerian psychologist, or at least a friendly and inexpensive therapist.
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J. David Bolter’s book, Turing’s Man.
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You will not be surprised to know that I rarely resort to such humbug.
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Virtual Reality will provide better therapy than ELIZA.
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a human being is in fact not a machine but a biological organism all of whose organs are interrelated and profoundly affected by mental states,
8. Invisible Technologies
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If you should try multiplying MMMMMM by MMDCXXVI, you will have this point confirmed.
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I speak of the zero for two reasons: First, to underscore that it is a kind of technology that makes both possible and easy certain kinds of thoughts which, without it, would remain inaccessible to the average person. If it does not exactly have an ideology, it contains, at least, an idea. I have previously alluded to the technology of using letters or numbers to grade students’ papers, and to the Greek discovery of the technology of alphabetization: like the use of zero, these are examples of how symbols may function like machines in creating new mind-sets and therefore new conceptions of reality. Second, the use of the zero and, of course, the Hindu numbering system of which it was a part made possible a sophisticated mathematics which, in turn, led to one of the most powerful technologies now in use: statistics.
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Galton’s main interest was in demonstrating, statistically, the inheritance of intelligence. To that end, he established a laboratory at the International Exposition of 1884, where for threepence people could have their skulls measured and receive Galton’s assessment of their intelligence.
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Lewis Terman, the man most responsible for promoting IQ tests in America,
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Lewis Terman , IQ
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I refer the reader to Stephen Jay Gould’s brilliant book The Mismeasure of Man. Here, I will only cite three points made by Gould, which I believe are sufficient to convince anyone with a higher IQ than Copernicus of the dangers of abusing statistics.
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It is as if “beauty” were determined to inhere in the size of a woman’s breasts. Then all we would have to do is measure breasts and rank each woman accordingly, and we would have an “objective” measure of “beauty.”
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The third point is that in doing this, we would have formulated our question “Who is the fairest of all?” in a restricted and biased way. And yet this would go unnoticed, because, as Gould writes, “The mystique of science proclaims that numbers are the ultimate test of objectivity.” This means that the way we have defined the concept will recede from our consciousness—that is, its fundamental subjectivity will become invisible, and the objective number itself will become reified.
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Dolly Parton is objectively proved to be more beautiful than Audrey Hepburn.
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E. L. Thorndike
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Gould has documented some of this harm, and Howard Gardner has tried to alleviate it (in his book Frames of Mind). But Technopoly resists such reproaches, because it needs to believe that science is an entirely objective enterprise. Lacking a lucid set of ethics and having rejected tradition, Technopoly searches for a source of authority and finds it in the idea of statistical objectivity.
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in a culture that reveres statistics, we can never be sure what sort of nonsense will lodge in people’s heads.
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They were interested in results, not in how these were obtained, and it did not seem to occur to them that the results and how they are obtained are inseparable.)
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When statistics and computers are joined, volumes of garbage are generated in public discourse.
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research by Alfred Chandler, Sidney Pollard, and especially Keith Hoskin and Richard Macve reveals a quite different picture and leads to a startling conclusion: modern business did not invent management; management invented modern business.8
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The roots of management may be traced to a new educational system, introduced in 1817 to the United States Military Academy by the academy’s fourth superintendent, Sylvanus Thayer.
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meaning that everything was organized around the use of writing).
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Daniel Tyler, working at the Springfield Armory, did a time-and-motion study in 1832 (sixty years before Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management” got under way) and established objectively based norms of production for every job in the armory.
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When a method of doing things becomes so deeply associated with an institution that we no longer know which came first—the method or the institution—then it is difficult to change the institution or even to imagine alternative methods for achieving its purposes.
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Information produced by counting may sometimes be valuable in helping a person get an idea, or, even more so, in providing support for an idea.
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D. H. Lawrence—tells
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His story is pure personal perception,
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I do not mean, incidentally, that the metaphors of social research are created in the same way as those of novels and plays. The writer of fiction creates metaphors by an elaborate and concrete detailing of the actions and feelings of particular human beings. Sociology is background; individual psychology is the focus. The researcher tends to do it the other way around. The focus is on a wider field, and the individual life is seen in silhouette, by inference and suggestion. Also, the novelist proceeds by showing. The researcher, using abstract social facts, proceeds by reason, by logic, by argument. That is why fiction is apt to be more entertaining. Whereas Oscar Wilde or Evelyn Waugh shows us the idle and conspicuously consuming rich, Thorstein Veblen argues them into existence. In the character of Sammy Glick, Budd Schulberg shows us the narcissist whose origins Christopher Lasch has tried to explain through sociological analysis. So there are differences among storytellers, and most of the time our novelists are more pleasurable to read. But the stories told by our social researchers are at least as compelling and, in our own times, apparently more credible.
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I have tried to show that science, social research, and the kind of work we call imaginative literature are three quite different kinds of enterprise. In the end, all of them are forms of storytelling—human attempts to account for our experience in coherent ways. But they have different aims, ask different questions, follow different procedures, and give different meanings to “truth.”
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made possible by the consistent application of the aims, assumptions, and procedures of natural science.
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It is not too much to say, I think, that the desacralized world has been searching for an alternative source of moral authority ever since. So far as I know, no responsible natural scientist, either of the Renaissance or of recent times, has claimed that the procedures of natural science or its discoveries can tell us what we ought to do—whether some way of dealing with our fellow humans is good or evil, right or wrong. Indeed, the very principles of natural science, with its requirement of an objective stance toward what is studied, compel the natural scientist to abjure in his or her role as a scientist such moral judgments or claims. When natural scientists speak out on moral questions, on what is good or evil to do, they speak as the rest of us—as concerned citizens on a threatened planet, as rational women and men, as people of conscience who must struggle no less than you must, or I, to answer for themselves where the ultimate authority for their moral judgment lies. It is the world of desperate listeners, longing for a more powerful moral authority, that begs the natural scientist to say it is the science that speaks, not the woman or man. But the scientist cannot with honor consent.
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Toward the end of his life, Sigmund Freud debated with himself what he called The Future of an Illusion. The illusion he referred to was the belief in a supranatural and suprahuman source of being, knowledge, and moral authority: the belief in God. The question Freud debated was not whether God exists, but whether humankind could survive without the illusion of God—or, rather, whether humankind would fare better psychologically, culturally, and morally without that illusion than with it. Freud states his own doubts (expressed through the device of an alter ego with whom he debates) in the strongest possible voice, but in the end it is the voice of Freud’s reason
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10. The Great Symbol Drain
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If you think such a commercial is not possible in your lifetime, then consider this: As I write, there is an oft-seen commercial for Hebrew National frankfurters. It features a dapper-looking Uncle Sam in his traditional red, white, and blue outfit. While Uncle Sam assumes appropriate facial expressions, a voice-over describes the delicious and healthful frankfurters produced by Hebrew National. Toward the end of the commercial, the voice stresses that Hebrew National frankfurters surpass federal standards for such products. Why? Because, the voice says as the camera shifts our point of view upward toward heaven, “We have to answer to a Higher Authority.”
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What we are talking about here is not blasphemy but trivialization, against which there can be no laws. In Technopoly, the trivialization of significant cultural symbols is largely conducted by commercial enterprise. This occurs not because corporate America is greedy but because the adoration of technology pre-empts the adoration of anything else. Symbols that draw their meaning from traditional religious or national contexts must therefore be made impotent as quickly as possible—that is, drained of sacred or even serious connotations. The elevation of one god requires the demotion of another. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” applies as well to a technological divinity as any other. There are two intertwined reasons that make it possible to trivialize traditional symbols. The first, as neatly expressed by the social critic Jay Rosen, is that, although symbols, especially images, are endlessly repeatable, they are not inexhaustible. Second, the more frequently a significant symbol is used, the less potent is its meaning. This is a point stressed in Daniel Boorstin’s classic book The Image, published thirty years ago.1 In it, Boorstin describes the beginnings, in the mid-nineteenth century, of a “graphics
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that allowed the easy reproduction of visual images, thus providing the masses with continuous access to the symbols and icons of their culture. Through prints, lithographs, photographs, and, later, movies and television, religious and national symbols became commonplaces, breeding indifference if not necessarily contempt. As if to answer those who believe that the emotional impact of a sacred image is always and ever the same, Boorstin reminds us that prior to the graphics revolution most people saw relatively few images. Paintings of Jesus or the Madonna, for example, would have been seen rarely outside churches. Paintings of great national leaders could be seen only in the homes of the wealthy or in government buildings. There were images to be seen in books, but books were expensive and spent most of their time on shelves. Images were not a conspicuous part of the environment, and their scarcity contributed toward their special power. When the scale of accessibility was altered, Boorstin argues, the experience of encountering an image necessarily changed; that is to say, it diminished in importance. One picture, we are told, is worth a thousand words. But a thousand pictures, especially if they are of the same object, may not be worth anything at all.
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I am not here making a standard-brand critique of the excesses of capitalism. It is entirely possible to have a market economy that respects the seriousness of words and icons, and which disallows their use in trivial or silly contexts. In fact, during the period of greatest industrial growth in America—from roughly 1830 to the end of the nineteenth century—advertising did not play a major role in the economy, and such advertising as existed used straightforward language, without recourse to the exploitation of important cultural symbols. There was no such thing as an “advertising industry” until the early twentieth century, the ground being prepared for it by the Postal Act of March 3, 1879, which gave magazines low-cost mailing privileges. As a consequence, magazines emerged as the best available conduits for national advertising, and merchants used the opportunity to make the names of their companies important symbols of commercial
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Cyrus H. K. Curtis,
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spent half a million dollars between 1883 and 1888 advertising his magazine in other magazines. By 1909,
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What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer. And so the balance of business expenditures shifts from product research to market research, which means orienting business away from making products of value and toward making consumers feel valuable.
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“What is learning for?”
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Only in knowing something of the reasons why they advocated education can we make sense of the means they suggest. But to understand their reasons we must also understand the narratives that governed their view of the world. By narrative, I mean a story of human history that gives meaning to the past, explains the present, and provides guidance for the future. It is a story whose principles help a culture to organize its institutions, to develop ideals, and to find authority for its actions. At the risk of repetition, I must point out again that the source of the world’s greatest narratives has been religion, as found, for example, in Genesis or the Bhagavad-Gita or the Koran. There are those who believe—as did the great historian Arnold Toynbee—that without a comprehensive religious narrative at its center a culture must decline. Perhaps. There are, after all, other sources—mythology, politics, philosophy, and science, for example—but it is certain that no culture can flourish without narratives of transcendent origin and power.
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There are destructive narratives.
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the story provided by Adolf Hitler to the German nation in the 1930s. Drawing on sources in Teutonic mythology and resurrecting ancient and primitive symbolism, Hitler wove a tale of Aryan supremacy that lifted German spirits, gave point to their labors, eased their distress, and provided explicit ideals. The story glorified the past, elucidated the present, and foretold the future, which was to last a thousand years. The Third Reich lasted exactly twelve years.
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The story each suggests is that the United States is not a culture but merely an economy, which is the last refuge of an exhausted philosophy of education. This belief, I might add, is precisely reflected in the President’s Commission Report, A Nation at Risk, where you will find a definitive expression of the idea that education is an instrument of economic policy and of very little else.
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education is an instrument of economic policy 教育是经济政策的工具 ，除此之外没教育没有其他思想表达
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(Let us, to be fair, sidestep appeals that might be made directly to students themselves, since the youth of any era are disinclined to think schooling a good idea, whatever the reasons advanced for it. See the “Seven Ages of Man” passage in As You Like It.)
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I do not say here that going to war was unjustified. My point is that, with the Cold War at an end, our political leaders now struggle, as never before, to find a vital narrative and accompanying symbols that would awaken a national spirit and a sense of resolve. The citizens themselves struggle as well. Having drained many of their traditional symbols of serious meaning, they resort, somewhat pitifully, to sporting yellow ribbons as a means of symbolizing their fealty to a cause. After the war, the yellow ribbons will fade from sight, but the question of who we are and what we represent will remain. Is it possible that the only symbol left to use will be an F-15 fighter plane guided by an advanced computer system?
11. The Loving Resistance Fighter
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In consideration of the disintegrative power of Technopoly, perhaps the most important contribution schools can make to the education of our youth is to give them a sense of coherence in their studies, a sense of purpose, meaning, and interconnectedness in what they learn. Modern secular education is failing not because it doesn’t teach who Ginger Rogers, Norman Mailer, and a thousand other people are but because it has no moral, social, or intellectual center. There is no set of ideas or attitudes that permeates all parts of the curriculum. The curriculum is not, in fact, a “course of study” at all but a meaningless hodgepodge of subjects. It does not even put forward a clear vision of what constitutes an educated person, unless it is a person who possesses “skills.” In other words, a technocrat’s ideal—a person with no commitment and no point of view but with plenty of marketable skills.
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By “ancestors” Cicero did not mean your mother’s aunt.
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Whatever events may be included in the study of the past, the worst thing we can do is to present them devoid of the coherence that a theory or theories can provide—that is to say, as meaningless. This, we can be sure, Technopoly does daily. The histories teacher must go far beyond the “event” level into the realm of concepts, theories, hypotheses, comparisons, deductions, evaluations. The idea is to raise the level of abstraction at which “history” is taught. This idea would apply to all subjects, including science.
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Specifically, I want to propose that the curriculum include a course in comparative religion. Such a
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course would deal with religion as an expression of humanity’s crea-tiveness, as a total, integrated response to fundamental questions about the meaning of existence. The course would be descriptive, promoting no particular religion but illuminating the metaphors, the literature, the art, the ritual of religious expression itself. I am aware of the difficulties such a course would face, not the least of which is the belief that the schools and religion must on no account touch each other.
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But I do not see how we can claim to be educating our youth if we do not ask them to consider how different people of different times and places have tried to achieve a sense of transcendence.
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But perhaps it will help to begin and sustain a serious conversation that will allow us to distance ourselves from that thought-world, and then criticize and modify it. Which is the hope of my book as well.
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For a concise and readable review of the development of the computer, I would recommend Arno Penzias’ Ideas and Information: Managing in a High-Tech World.