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TECHINICAL TRAINING VERSUS EDUCATION
By Friedrich Georg Juenger
 

Let us study the relation of technology to the organization of schools and universities. As the technician enters this field, he converts all institutions of learning to his interest; that is, he promotes technical training, which as he claims, in the only up-to-date, useful, practical knowledge.

The significance of reforms in this direction must not be underestimated. They constitute a direct attack against the idea of a "rounded education" (encyclios disciplina) that prevailed in classical and medieval times. The consequences of this attack do not, obviously, consist alone in the decline of the role of grammar in education, in the retreat of astronomy and music, in the disappearance of dialectics and rhetoric. This slashing, whereby of the seven classical "free arts" only arithmetic and geometry have survived, is by no means all. The technical science which comes to a position of supremacy is both empirical and casual. Its inroads into education mean the victory of factual knowledge over integrated knowledge. The study of ancient languages is pushed into the background, but with them there vanish also the means to understand a culture in its entirety. The logical capacity of the student, his capacity to master the form of knowledge is weakened. Factual knowledge is empirical and thereby as infinite as are the endless rows of causes and effects by which it is described. We often meet with pride in the boundless accumulation of factual knowledge, which has been likened to an ocean on which the ship of civilization proudly sails. But this ocean is a mare tenebrosum ("a dark sea"); for a knowledge that has become boundless has also become formless. If to the human mind all things are equally worth knowing, then knowledge loses all values. Therefore, it may be concluded that this factual knowledge will eventually drown itself in the ocean of its facts. Today the most valiant human efforts are swamped by the rising tide of facts. It would not be surprising if we were to become as weary from this vastness of knowledge as from a crushing weight which burdens our back.

Where emphasis is placed on facts, education strives for a handbook knowledge, imparted to the student through profiles, graphs, and statistics of the subject matter. True education is incompatible with this kind of knowledge and with this method of instruction, for the crude empiricism into which such training has fallen is a purely mechanical piling up of facts. This training lays no foundation, it contains no forming principle, which would be superior to, and would master, the subject matter.

That dubious adage which says: "Knowledge is power," is less valid today than it ever was, for knowledge of that sort is the very opposite of mental power; actually it completely enervates the mind. Universities decline in the degree that technical progress spreads into them from the secondary schools. The university becomes a technical training center and servant of technical progress. Technology, in turn, does not fail to lavish endowments and new institutes upon universities and to work strenuously for the transformation of the universities into conglomerates of specialized laboratories.

It should be noted that the classic idea of a rounded education, confined as it was to the formation of culture and wisdom, stands in sharp opposition to the idea of an encyclopedia of sciences, that is, to a knowledge which is arrayed alphabetically like a dictionary or encyclopedia.

The idea of an encyclopedia of sciences belongs to the eighteenth century. Knowledge of that description has been the forerunner of all modern technical science. It is the knowledge of Diderot, a D’Alembert, a La Mettrie, who declared all philosophic thought to be null and void, who in works such as Histoire naturelle de l’ame and L’homme machine advocated an empiricism in which everything is explained in terms of casual reflexes between brain and body. The thought of Hume, their English contemporary, is stronger and finer, but his doctrine of the association of ideas, and the principles of all possible associations (he assumes similarity, contiguity in time and space, and cause or effect) lead to the same result (Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding and An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding). According to Hume, perceptions are not in need of a substance that carries them, for all substances are merely composites of simple concepts and thought. These theories of associative thinking always tend to make the associations materially independent.

However, to associate is not yet to think; in fact the special capacity for association characteristic of many a clever head appears to be rather a substitute for independent thought. Hume may be considered the spiritual father of Joyce’s Ulysses, a book that makes association independent, and destroys every intellectual order so radically that nothing is left but a great garbage pile of associations.