American Catholic Dilemma: An Inquiry into the Intellectual Life

By Thomas F. O'Dea | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
State of the Question

Recent international developments in science have focused the attention of the American people upon the problems which are involved in education, and the place of intellectual activities in general in our national life. Yet this discussion, now so to speak in the public domain, is but an extension of an inquiry which has long been of deep concern to that portion of the public which is engaged in intellectual activities. For the processes involved in the creation, transmission, and conservation of culture must constantly be the object of study, are always in need of reconsideration, critical appraisal, and reform. That this is the case may come as a surprise to the general public, looking with admiration or with suspicious bewilderment at our educational system at work; but among educators themselves it has long been a matter of common knowledge, accepted as a basis of educational theory and practice. Creative intellectuals outside the educational system as well have long been concerned with these problems. Hence the present "crisis" is but the coming into the public awareness of what has been a continuing process for those whose special concern those problems are.

In a democracy we assume, and quite rightly, that when the public becomes aware of a problem an advance has been made toward its solution. Thus, although in the present circumstances the public may at times fail to grasp the deeper aspects of the issues involved or propose wellintentioned but shortsighted solutions (such as a "crash"

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