by Eugene Halton
Published by The University of Chicago Press, 1995, paper, 1997.
excerpt from Chapter 4: Lewis Mumford's Organic Worldview
....One half of a century ago Mumford
was at Stanford calling for an inclusiveness quite similar to that demanded
by many multiculturalists today. But his reason for including non-western
sources at Stanford, namely that these were works which transcended the
cultures and civilizations in which they arose, was diametrically opposed
to the relativistic premisses of many contemporary multiculturalists.
One possibly legitimate critique of Mumford by contemporary multiculturalists
might be an underemphasis on ethnic, class, and gender diversities in portraying
American culture and history in general. Here the crucial question is what
role do these factors play within the civilizational context.
Mumford was calling for a general education which would make a big picture of the varieties and continuities of humanity available to students, because he believed that a deep sense of history, cultural diversity, and common humanity was essential both to a humanistic education, and to a world culture in the making, and that a humanistic education must address the whole person, not simply the intellectual portion. His outlook could not be more at odds with the postmodern temper and its view that everything is a question of ideology.
Again the emotions, as well as aesthetic and moral standards of discrimination and judgment weighed heavily in Mumford's view of education:
If we are to create balanced human beings, capable of entering into world-wide co-operation with all other men of good will--and that is the supreme task of our generation, and the foundation of all its other potential achievements--we must give as much weight to the arousal of the emotions and to the expression of moral and esthetic values as we now give to science, to invention, to practical organization. One without the other is impotent. And values do not come ready-made: they are achieved by a resolute attempt to square the facts of one's own experience with the historic patterns formed in the past by those who devoted their whole lives to achieving and expressing values. If we are to express the love in our own hearts, we must also understand what love meant to Socrates and Saint Francis, to Dante and Shakespeare, to Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti, to the explorer Shackleton and to the intrepid physicians who deliberately exposed themselves to yellow fever. These historic manifestations of love are not recorded in the day's newspaper or the current radio program: they are hidden to people who possess only fashionable minds. Virtue is not a chemical product, as Taine once described it: it is a historic product, like language and literature; and this means that if we cease to care about it, cease to cultivate it, cease to transmit its funded values, a large part of it will become meaningless, like a dead language to which we have lost the key. That, I submit, is what has happened in our own lifetime.The cultivation of moral and aesthetic values and emotions became a hot potato in twentieth-century educational life in America. Public schools, from kindergarten through college, absorbed many of the tasks formerly centered in the Church and family. But the cultivation of values and virtues in universities was taken to be primarily an intellectual task, rather than also moral and aesthetic. Hence the cultivation of passions and standards of discrimination and discipline requisite for passionate living were too often relegated to "physical education," or worse, to collegiate spectator sport. Values and emotions were either etherealized into abstract mind, whether modern or postmodern, or materialized into gladiatorial spectacle, into Ariel or Caliban. There is little place for a Prospero, the agent and mediator of values and emotional life, in such an educational system.
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