{short description of image}  


Richard Weaver


Subtitle: The Cultural Crisis of our Time, Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Roube, 1964, 153 pgs.


Reviewer comments The book was written in 1964 as a critique of the degradation of Western including American society. Despite the contemporary deterioration all around him, the author is places appeared optimistic about a revival. Now, in 2017, we can only consider that his 'vision' of the future was prophetic as the principal social conditions he described as degradation have become vastly worse. This is shown particularly in his chapter on education.




Chapter One - The Image of Culture


Chapter Two - Status and Function


Chapter Three - The Attack upon Memory


Chapter Four - The Cultural Role of Rhetoric


Chapter Five - Forms and Social Cruelty


Chapter Six - A Dialectic on Total War


Chapter Seven - Gnostics of Education

Dr. Weaver writes, "education means not merely the imparting of information to the mind but the shaping of the mind and of the personality. ..."education is unavoidably a training for a way of life... "Under normal conditions the points of view that an educator instills are the points of view of the culture, and actually nothing else is possible as a settled thing because an education and a culture working at cross purposes can only produce a conflict which has to be resolved. A conflict of this kind of serious proportions has developed in our country with the ascension to influence of the 'progressive' theory of education".

"There are now many hopeful signs that the battle has been essentially decided and that the danger carried by progressivism is drawing to an end".

Far from it, the battle was won - the whole war - by the progressives and the inclucated students are pouring out of the universities to demand revolution. Dr. Weaver believed the revolution was past history so that is how he described it. His comments are rather a descripton of its opening campaigns.

"What I propose to discuss in this chapter many therefore before long be history. But since it is the kind of history from which one may learn a great deal about philosophical dead ends and educational follies, the story needs telling in perspective, and the moral needs to be drawn".

The story needs telling all the more since the 'dead ends' and 'follies' are the basis for the current appalling scene.

"It is not too much to say that in the past fifty years public education in the United States has been in the hands of revolutionaries. To grasp the nature of their attempted revolution, we need only realize that in the past every educational system has reflected to a great extent the social and political constitution of the society which supported it. This was assumed to be a natural and proper thing, since the young were to be trained to take places in the world that existed around them. In the period just mentioned, however, we have witnessed something never before seen in the form of a systematic attempt to undermine a society's traditions and beliefs through the educational establishment which is usually employed to maintain them. There has been an extraordinary occurrence, a virtual educational coup d'etat carried out by a specially inclined minority. This minority has been in essence a cabal, with objectives radically different from those of the state which employed them. An amazing feature of the situation has been how little they have cared to conceal these objectives".
"The result has been an educational system not only intrinsically bad but increasingly at war with the aims of the community which authorizes it, as we are now forced to recognize".

Dr. Weaver continues by providing a brief historical summary of the change in the philosophy and aims of education itself championed by John Dewey. He then links this philosophy back to the ancient Gnostics. His exposition of the essentials of Gnostic belief and its rejection by the early Catholic Church fathers is illuminating. He also directs attention to exact parallels between Gnosticism and much of the current philosophy of education.

But he does not describe another central historical train of development in American education that motivates the progressive revolutionaries. This is the exaltation of the 'state'. This strain entered all American 'social sciences' as a result of the generation of American students who flocked to Germany - then considered the leading intellectual and scholarly center after the war in 1870.


Chapter - Eight - The Reconsideration of Man


Return to Xenophon.