- 更新于：2020-04-29 11:17:24
arned to play with[Pg 95] machinery, who know it as a splendid toy and not as a hateful tyrant, who want to use it to make themselves and the world happier—perhaps a generation of such workers, the products of a democratic and efficient educational system, will have the knowledge and the power to take and use this machinery to serve their own creative dream of a useful and happy new society....
Madam, have I answered your question?
XV. First and Last Things
“BUT is there nothing in the world of any importance except machinery?”
Thank you for reminding me! We are all inclined to be too much preoccupied with the importance of machinery. I confess that I have been so ever since, as a child, I took my father’s watch apart and found myself unable to cope with the problem of putting it back together again. But note for a moment the pragmatic significance of such an infantile predicament. Of what use would it have been for some infinitely wise person to say to me: “Child, do not attach so much importance to those wheels and springs! They are interesting, in a way; but how much less interesting than the birds, the flowers and the stars!”—what good, I ask you, would such counsel have been to me at that moment? I wanted to get that watch put back together before something terrible happened to me. And mankind as a whole seems to me to be in much the same situation.[Pg 97] For the best of reasons, it has to master the problem presented by a machine civilization—lest something terrible happen. Its preoccupation is born of fear. The flowers and stars (it thinks) can wait: they are not so dangerous.
And yet the infinitely wise person would have been right. Machinery must be ranked among (so to speak) the minor poetry of the universe. The astronomic epic, the botanical lyric, the biological drama, are, from any point of view not prejudiced by our fears, more important. It is only because we are so acutely conscious, all of us, of the failure of our educational system in the matter of preparing us to exist unbewilderedly in the midst of a machine civilization, that I have put such emphasis on the adequacy of the new education in dealing with that problem. It is of importance only as food is important to a starving man—merely so. And if you have heard enough about the place of machinery in education—
I see that you have. Very well, then we will go on to the matters of real importance.
What are they?
(My rhetorical questions, it seems, are always being taken literally! I was about to tell you myself, but I suppose we shall have to listen to that elderly gentleman over there, who evidently[Pg 98] has the answer ready.) Very well, sir. What are they?
“I am glad to hear that you have disposed at last of the crassly materialistic aspect of your theme, and are about to deal with its spiritual aspects. For these are naturally its more important aspects. And if you ask me to specify more particularly what these are, I can only reply in old-fashioned language, and say that the important things in life, and hence in education, are Beauty, Truth and Goodness. I trust that you agree with me?”
Certainly, sir. Beauty and Truth and Goodness—or, if you will permit me to translate these eighteenth century abstractions into our contemporary terminology—the cultivation of the creative faculties, of disinterested curiosity, and of personal relationships, undoubtedly constitute the chief ends of democratic cultural endeavor. These, indeed, together with what you would call Usefulness and what we would call technical efficiency, comprise pretty much of the whole of existence. Not all of it—but quite enough to take as the subject of our new inquiry.
How can education encourage and develop, not in a few individuals, but in the masses of the people, the creative faculties which are the source[Pg 99] of beauty?—for it must conceive its task in these broad terms if it is to be a democratic education. How can it foster in these same masses that rare growth, disinterested curiosity, from which come the fruits of philosophy and science? And how can education deal effectively with the dangerous emotions of personal relationship?
The task seems at first glance so difficult that it will be well for us to ask at the outset whether it can be accomplished at all!
XVI. The Child as Artist
IN this matter, most decidedly, we need expert advice. Let us start with Beauty. The one who best understands Beauty is undoubtedly the Artist. Let us call in the Artist.... Will you question him, or shall I? You prefer to do it yourself, I see. Very well, then—but please try to get to the point as soon as possible!
The Questioner. What we want to know is this: is it possible to teach the child to become an artist?
The Artist. He is an artist already.
The Questioner. What do you mean!