The Crisis of Western Education (The Works of Christopher Dawson)

The Crisis of Western Education (The Works of Christopher Dawson)

Christopher Dawson
with an introduction by Glenn W. Olsen
Copyright Date: 1961
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  • Book Info
    The Crisis of Western Education (The Works of Christopher Dawson)
    Book Description:

    The Crisis of Western Education, originally published in 1961, served as a capstone of Christopher Dawson's thought on the Western educational system.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1758-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Glenn W. Olsen

    Christopher Dawson (1889–1970) was of such reputation that when Harvard University established the Chauncey Stillman Chair of Roman Catholic Studies, he was chosen as its first occupant (1958–62). Before teaching at Harvard, Dawson, an English convert to Catholicism, had not previously visited the United States. A mature scholar in his sixties, by this time he had published many books and articles on a wide range of topics, but he was best known for a series of books on the role of religion in world history. While at Harvard he was sometimes asked for his opinion of American education...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    • I The Origins of the Western Tradition of Education
      (pp. 3-10)

      Culture, as its name denotes, is an artificial product. It is like a city that has been built up laboriously by the work of successive generations, not a jungle which has grown up spontaneously by the blind pressure of natural forces. It is the essence of culture that it is communicated and acquired, and although it is inherited by one generation from another, it is a social not a biological inheritance, a tradition of learning, an accumulated capital of knowledge and a community of “folkways” into which the individual has to be initiated.

      Hence it is clear that culture is...

    • II The Age of the Universities and the Rise of Vernacular Culture
      (pp. 11-20)

      Throughout the early middle ages Western education followed the lines that had been laid down in the last period of the Roman Empire. It was based on Latin grammar, on the study of the Latin classics, the Latin Fathers and the Bible and the Liturgy. It was therefore a specifically clerical education which was normally confined to the monastic and cathedral schools, although it might also be found in the palace schools of the more enlightened rulers like Charlemagne, who did a great service to the cause of Christian culture by his educational capitularies, in which he insists on the...

    • III The Age of Humanism
      (pp. 21-32)

      The higher culture of modern Europe, and of America also, has been formed by the educational tradition that had its roots in the Italian Renaissance. It was a tradition that had its center not so much in the universities, which long retained their medieval character, but rather in the academies and the learned societies, in the Jesuit colleges and the English public schools. Today this tradition has lost its intellectual supremacy and its social prestige, but it still lives in the cultures it created, for all the modern vernacular literatures, from Shakespeare and Milton to Goethe and Hölderlin, are its...

    • IV The Influence of Science and Technology
      (pp. 33-45)

      The most striking feature in the educational development which we have surveyed in the last three chapters has been its extraordinary unity. Throughout the whole period from the fourth to the seventeenth century it was dominated consistently by the two great traditions of Christianity and classical culture, and though there were great changes in emphasis and in method and in content, the two basic elements remained constant. The humanists of the Renaissance returned to the sources of the classical tradition, but so had the Carolingian scholars and the thirteenth-century schoolmen. The reformation was a revolutionary movement which broke the continuity...

    • V Nationalism and the Education of the People
      (pp. 46-53)

      While the enlightenment and the Revolution were proceeding triumphantly

      To ruin the great work of Time

      And cast the kingdoms old

      Into another mould

      the humbler work of popular education was following an almost independent line of development. As Voltaire wrote, “We have never claimed to enlighten shoemakers and servant girls, they are the portion of the apostles.” And in fact, until far on into the nineteenth century the education of the common people was left to the Church or to private religious initiative, since the far-reaching programmes for universal education launched by the French Revolution remained almost entirely without...

    • VI The Development of the American Educational Tradition
      (pp. 54-67)

      The american tradition of education was originally derived from Great Britain and had little in common with the centralized, state-controlled systems of education which had been characteristic of continental Europe since the eighteenth century. For almost two hundred years it has developed freely on its own lines, so that it has created a new tradition which differs in many respects from either the English or the continental pattern and which has acquired an enormous and increasing influence on the modern world. In order to understand this development it is necessary to study American culture itself, since American education reflects the...

    • VII Catholic Education and Culture in America
      (pp. 68-76)

      We have seen how the American educational system represents the culmination of the age-long development of Western education which has now become universal in scope and worldwide in its influence. It rivals the educational system of the soviet Union in offering scientific and technological instruction to the members of the new nationalities and of the more backward cultures from Indonesia to West Africa, and therefore may be seen as an indispensable instrument for the creation of a free world. But in one important respect it has departed from its Western origins and has become similar to its Communist and totalitarian...

    • VIII Education and the State
      (pp. 77-88)

      Anyone who surveys the literature of modern education cannot help feeling discouraged by the thought of the immense amount of time and labor which has been expended with so little apparent fruit. Yet we must not forget that behind this smoke-screen of blue-books and hand-books great forces are at work which have changed the lives and thoughts of men more effectively than the arbitrary power of dictators or the violence of political revolutions.

      During the last hundred or two hundred years mankind has been subjected to a process which makes for uniformity and universality. For example, there is universal military...

    • IX The Study of Western Culture
      (pp. 91-98)

      One of the chief defects of modern education has been its failure to find an adequate method for the study of our own civilization. The old humanist education taught all that it knew about the civilization of ancient Greece and Rome, and taught little else. In the nineteenth century, this aristocratic and humanist ideal was gradually replaced by the democratic utilitarianism of compulsory state education, on the one hand, and by the ideal of scientific specialization, on the other.

      The result has been an intellectual anarchy imperfectly controlled by the crude methods of the examination system and of payment by...

    • X The Case for the Study of Christian Culture
      (pp. 99-110)

      At first sight it may seem surprising that there is any need for the discussion of Christian culture study, at least among Catholic educationalists, for one would have expected that the whole question would have been thrashed out years ago and there was no longer room for any difference of opinion. But as a matter of fact this is far from being the case, and the more one looks into the subject, the more one is struck by the vagueness and uncertainty of educated opinion in this matter and the lack of any accepted doctrine or educational policy.

      No doubt...

    • XI The Study of Christian Culture in the Catholic College
      (pp. 111-119)

      The study of christian culture as described in Chapter X offers a new approach to the three great problems that confront Western education at the present time: first, how to maintain the tradition of liberal education against the growing pressure of scientific specialization and utilitarian vocationalism; secondly, how to retain the unity of Western culture against the dissolvent forces of nationalism and racialism; and thirdly, how to preserve the tradition of Christian culture in the age of secularism.

      The first two problems concern any Western university or institution for higher education, but the third is the special concern of Catholic...

    • XII The Theological Foundations of Christian Culture
      (pp. 120-126)

      During the last two centuries we have all been taught to think in terms of the nation-state. That has been the real working basis of community, and education has become more and more completely nationalized and has been directed to the study of national culture.

      But today this social unity is losing its importance. The nation-state as we knew it in the nineteenth century is being dwarfed or swallowed up by the increasing strain of world war and the increasing pressure of gigantic economic organization.

      What is to take its place? Is the culture of the future to be built...

    • XIII The Religious Vaccum in Modern Culture
      (pp. 129-137)

      The predicament in which the world finds itself today is due essentially to two factors: first to the acute secularization of Western culture and secondly to the revolt of the rest of the world against it. For more than two centuries Western civilization has been losing contact with the religious traditions on which it was originally founded and devoting all its energies to the conquest and organization of the world by economic and scientific techniques; and for the last fifty years there has been a growing resistance to this exploitation by the rest of the world—a resistance which has...

    • XIV American Culture and the Liberal Ideology
      (pp. 138-144)

      In the previous chapter I have discussed the predicament of the modern Western world—a world which has been increasingly detached from its spiritual roots in Christian culture but which has at the same time advanced in material and scientific power, so that it has extended its influence over the rest of the world until it has created a cosmopolitan technological world order. But this world order possesses no spiritual foundation and appears to the ancient civilizations of the East and the new peoples of Africa as a vast organization of material power which has been created to serve the...

    • XV Western Man and the Technological Order
      (pp. 145-158)

      This is the age of frankenstein, the hero who created a mechanical monster and then found it had got out of control and threatened his own existence. Frankenstein represents our age even more truly than Faust represented the age of Goethe and the romantics. Western man has created the technological order, but he has not discovered how to control it. It is beginning to control him, and if it does, there seems no way of preventing it from destroying him.

      Our dilemma is most obvious in the new techniques of warfare. These have become so efficient that they make the...

  8. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 159-164)
  9. Index of Names
    (pp. 165-168)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 169-170)