A New Reformation?February 22nd, 2009 at 22:55
So now with the dawn of what many people call the “Information Age”, the argument is made that the Modern Era is coming to a close. Sited as evidence, is that many of the institutions of the Modern Era developed in a bygone age of mechanization and standardization, are no longer effective ways of organizing our means of production, means of education, etc.
Barzun paints a portrait of the profound changes during the Reformation. Of the revolutionary technology of printing, which made it possible for many people, for the first time in history, to own a book (the Bible) and learn to read it themselves. Prior to the invention of printing, Bibles were hand-written, mostly by monks, controlled by the Church, and interpreted by priests, who instructed the common folk on the Bible’s wisdom. The printing press also allowed many new voices, like the reluctant iconoclast Martin Luther, to broadcast their ideas for the first time in history quickly and widely to a mass audience through printed pamphlets and fliers. I suppose you could call them the bloggers of their era…*g*
Luther put forward a simple idea whose time had come. It was an idea that resonated throughout Europe with the growing sense of dis-ease at the hierarchical command and control institution of the Roman Church. It was an idea that galvanized the fledgling sense of individualism and liberty. Simply put, Luther’s idea was that with your own printed Bible, you have your own direct access to the information (the word of God) critical for your salvation. You no longer needed the massive institution of the Church to instruct you in what the Bible says and thus guide you through life. You can read it for yourself and chart your own course. As Barzun puts it, you can “Be your own priest.” Hmmm… any contemporary parallels?
So move forward five hundred years, to the end of the 20th Century, perhaps the end of the Modern Era. Is the development of the Internet just as revolutionary a technology to begin a new era as printing was in 1500? Mass movements, later mass production and the grand social-engineering that went with it have marked the Modern Era. Is our massive, hierarchical, command and control education system (the ubiquitous K-12) spawned by these forces the Modern equivalent of the Medieval Church? I think maybe it is, for teachers (like the Medieval priests) have been asked to interpret the world for our youth through mandatory instruction.
So is the Internet, like the printed Bible before it, the tool to give people (including our youth) direct access to the knowledge they need for their education, success, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Can we paraphrase Luther and say, “Student… Teach yourself”? Can teachers now transition from being the keepers and instructors of the important knowledge to being (when requested) the facilitators of our youth seeking their own knowledge?
Important questions I think. Questions I am struggling to answer and would like to hear how you attempt to answer as well. Questions that need to be discussed a lot more I believe.
Posted by Cooper Zale, in Education