The Civilization Approach to Education in the 21st Century

By Targowski, Andrew | Comparative Civilizations Review, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Civilization Approach to Education in the 21st Century

Targowski, Andrew, Comparative Civilizations Review


This investigation presents the Civilization Development Curriculum that should impact almost every kind of higher education and particularly should be practiced in educating leaders of world societies. The justification for this plan comes from an historic perspective of education, the state of education at the dawn of the 21st century, and is a synthesis of learning for work and life, both individually and socially. The civilization approach to education is defined and an example of the civilization development curriculum is offered as well as an octopus strategy for its implementation.

KEY WORDS: civilization, civilization development curriculum, civilization dynamics, globalization dynamics, human dynamics.

Dedicated to Pitirim A. Sorokin

The first American President of the ISCSC



The purpose of this investigation is to define the civilization approach to education in the 21st century, when civilization is at risk due to many obvious and known factors which are beyond this study. Therefore the civilization issues should be embedded into higher education programs and curricula in order to develop the sustainable civilization.

This approach is the result of 60 years of research done within the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC). Arnold Toynbee (18891975) is the pioneer of civilization study. He was a British historian whose twelvevolume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History (1934-1961), was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global perspective. He perceived a civilization as a religion-driven large cultural entity and recognized 26 different civilizations.

Since his monumental contribution, about 500 civilizationists have investigated civilization.

Among them one can mention sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, anthropologist Roger Wescott; historians Fernand Braudel, Rushton Coulborn, Carroll Quigley, Feliks Koneczny; political scientist David Wilkinson; literary comparativist Michael Palencia-Roth; sociologists CP. Wolf, Vytautas Kavolis, Matthew Melko (The Nature of Civilizations, 1969), Benjamin Nelson and other scholars such as Talcott Parsons, Hayden White, Immanuel Wallerstein, Gordon Hewes, André Gunder Frank, Marshall Sahlins, Lynn White Jr., Jeremy Sabloff, Samuel Huntington, Stephen Blaha (physicist), William McGaughey, and others.

Since this paper was presented in Russia, one must mention a great civilizationoriented research role of Russian-born Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968), professor at Harvard and the founder of the university's Department of Sociology.

He was a member of the Kerensky Cabinet, the first democratic one in this country. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, he was condemned to death and later expelled from Russia (in a special train with other anti-Bolshevik intellectuals). In his book Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937) he classified societies according to their "cultural mentality," which can be ideational (reality is spiritual), sensate (reality is material), or idealistic (a synthesis of the two).

He suggested that major civilizations evolve through these three in turn: ideational, idealistic, and sensate.

Each of these phases not only seeks to describe the nature of reality, but also stipulates the nature of human needs and goals to be satisfied, and the methods of satisfaction. Sorokin has interpreted contemporary Western Civilization as a sensate civilization dedicated to technological progress and prophesied its fall into decadence and the emergence of a new ideational or idealistic era.

Sorokin shared this view with a German philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) who in the book The Decline of the West (1918-22 the German edition, 1939 English edition) was predicting this rather pessimistic process which is very evident at the dawn of the 21st century.

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