Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action, edited by Peter M. Smudde. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2010. 268 pages with notes, bibliography, illustrations, and index. Available at Parlor Press: http://www.parlorpress.com/humanisticLONG ANTICIPATED! EAGERLY AWAITED! It is out now!!!!
“I go about my garden reading passages from the essays aloud! I feel like Walt Whitman braying out Homer on the horse cars. Nearly every sentence is superbly formed. I have never read such a beautifully edited and fluent book. This book enlists rhetoric to help solve the problems of education. I take it as a rhetorician’s call to revive our swooning education system.”--Buck Kartlian, Independent Scholar, Garden City, New Jersey
“Burke’s fifty year old essay is still wet on the hoardings. It roars like thunder in the dawn. The essays that follow Burke’s statement deeply engage such subjects as learning communities, service learning, our obsession with technology, schools as problem solving organizations, routinized creativity for problem solving, student and communal accountai8blity and much, much more.” --Charles Urban Larson, Northern Illinois University
We owe a great deal to Peter Smudde of Illinois State University for his energy, his tenacity and his sheer force of will. He brought this volume to birth by riding roughshod over all obstacles His old mentor and colleague, Bernie Brock, would be deeply delighted with this volume. Bernie often talked of his fascination with Wittgenstein’s Vienna Circle. And this book is a kind of Vienna Circle, a group of grail seekers on a single quest.
Peter’s Introduction makes a strong case for the importance of this book. He notes that high school graduation rates peaked in 1969; college-going has not increased since the 1970’s. When Burke wrote his famous essay on education, university scholars still enjoyed a kind of charismatic quality. He was able to speak of using the giant triplets of science, technology and bureaucracy for our betterment, not for our domination. He spoke of the college professor’s balancing act: to keep good will and maintain one’s integrity at the same time. A related goal was to serve individual needs and the needs of the community and the larger culture at the same time.
This book is a refreshing change from the usual insistence e on ever more math and science or Utopian schemes for unlashing the power of the so-called underclass.
The Burkean cure makes langauge central, and treats the student as active participant rather than passive learner. Burkian ideas are used to make us all colleagues and partners instead of victims and employees. The thread that runs through the essays is the construction and maintenance of a creative community. As opposed to excessive focus on individuals and individual mobility, Elvira Berry makes a magnificent case for Burke’s trans-disciplinary approach to study; Smudde renews Burkean them as the learner as critic. Huglen and Coppin devise Burkean inspired strategies of pedagogy. Richard Thames urges us not to be immune to our own knowledge and embrace the power of form in pedagogy. Huglen and McCoppin demonstrate the use of rhetoric in devising effective pedagogical strategies. Bryan Crable envisions a Burkean Curriculum and both Klumpp and Williams demonstrate Burke’s power of naming in education administration. David Cratis Williams envisions a fully dramatistic system of education.
In short the book is so incredibly rich that it merits a dialectical set of reviews in the next issue of the journal. Get the book! Read it! Believe it! Act on it!!!