The Pokey Finger of God

meditations on religion and culture

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Lost in the pattern

December 30th, 2007 · No Comments · christianity, culture

Have you lost your capacity for linear thinking or analytical reasoning?

As part of a bit of pleasant wiki-surfing this morning, I paused to consider the idea of ‘post-Christian‘. I’ve heard a couple of people use this term recently and it’s made me curious about what other people think it means.This lead me, through a related link, past a perfunctory overview of post-modernism.

A descriptive quote at the end of the article leaped out at me, because it linked to a partially developed question just formed in my widdle hed. During an earlier reading of the post on “Ganesha“, it struck me how frequently he was co-opted by various cults. It occurred to me that the Hindus must have, or must have had, a generalized understanding of cult technology for those kinds of usage patterns to develop. This would be the same sort of education provided to the wealthy in ancient Greek city-states.

Naturally, my tendency was to view this in terms of the development of culture between 100BC and 100AD, since this has been my area of study of late. But it wasn’t until I read the quote describing post-modernists that it struck me how this might have modern relevance.

The quote was from Chuck Colson — one of the Watergate 7 — who was describing post-moderns. “A generation raised on channel-surfing has lost the capacity for linear thinking and analytical reasoning.” [source] This immediately struck me as a false generalization, since I know quite a number of people who have been able to train themselves to perform amazing feats of logic and analytic skill. Bringing everything together, I surmised that the problem isn’t that humans are suddenly too stupid to be smart, but that we’ve lost the traditions of classical education that had made us so smart over the previous three centuries.

Modern public education as we know it today has only been in vogue since after World War II. Before this, the single-room schoolhouse, doling out the classics, had been the norm. Somehow, in the process of “modernizing” our public education system, we managed to squeeze out most of the critical skills needed to foment revolution and to lead peoples with language and charisma.

Looking at the results, and looking back at the context when a man from the upper echelon attempted to blame the failures of public education on the popularity of television, I am having a more difficult time convincing myself that there wasn’t some sort of conspiracy to ‘dumb down’ the American people. At least, it’s not quite as heartbreaking as the notion that the current public education system was largely the result of the efforts of many well-meaning individuals.

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