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Contrasting Arguments

The Culture War and The Clash in Education  

Oscar Pemantle

Contrasting Arguments: The Culture War and The Clash in Education is a small study that presents the variable story of the culture wars and the clash in education from the point of view of the principle actors on the two sides. This makes it a very different story from the one told by their disciples and followers in the schools of education. Indeed, the two are diametrical opposites of one another. According to the main actors, the root of the contemporary culture clash goes back to the Enlightenment and beyond that to the historical Socrates and the platonic dialogues, dramatizing his form of teaching and the issues it raises and are still disputed by the best thinkers on the traditional side. Tolstoy’s critique of the traditional school in the Europe of his day is well known to the literate public. And Goethe famously greeted the Encyclopedie as "a dark, sumerian corpse-like affair," from which life, color, and spirit have been drained off. What, then, were the issues down deep and on a more fundamental level? With this the main issue comes to light on the level of pure theory. These issues are: (1) The subject-object distinction deriving from Hegel, (2) The nature of human consciousness either as perception or as experience, (3) The rejection of consciousness as an entirety and its acceptance by the other side from Gramsci and Freire to Bruner and associates, (4) The consequent development of a theory of instruction (to use Bruner’s phrase) and a craft of teaching, and (5) The phenomenon of "inversion" as explaining the moral force of the evangelical coming from the left. Each of these is taken out in a separate chapter devoted to the theme in question, with the appropriate title to guide the reader.

The book closesby contrasting the productive and best in Britain with the best and most erudite of the conservative side in the United States for the readers of these two countries to make their choice as those in Italy and Brazil are invited to make theirs and cut through the culture clash. Contrasting Arguments is a must read for students of Goethe, Freire, Gramsci, Socraties, Bruner, Hegel, and beyond who are interested in how these great minds clash in our global education efforts.