The Grey Chronicles


The Future Improved by the Past? Part III

Building a Bridge to the 18th CenturyYesterday’s post on Neil Postman’s book: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future (2000) annotated on his ideas on Information, Narratives, and Democracy. This last installment takes on the remaining two topics: Children and Education.

Although the chapter on Children came ahead of the chapter on Democracy, I have deliberately delayed my annotations on Children because I found that the latter is interlinked with Education. Here are some snippets and my usual annotations. I also provided some sort of Postscript.


“[A] child’s mind is not the pages of a book, and a child is not a plant to be pruned. A child is an economic creature, not different from an adult, whose sense of worth is to be founded entirely on his or her capacity to secure material benefits, and whose purpose is to fuel a market economy. … [C]hildhood was a social construction, which is to say, not a biological necessity, which is to say further, invented not discovered.” (p. 126) [Emphasis added.]

Annotations : I have been simply amazed by my children, my sons, and their childhood. I have shared some of these amazement in posts regarding them. It is my belief that with me and my wife’s help and sustenance, they could become whatever they want to be when they grow up.

“One might say that the main difference between an adult and a child is that the adult knows about certain facets of life—its mysteries, its contradictions, its violence, its tragedies—that are not considered suitable for children to know. As children move toward adulthood, we reveal these secrets to them in ways we believe they are prepared to manage.” (p. 192) [Emphasis added.]

Annotations : Even if we reveal these secrets to them in a piece-meal basis, sometimes television makes it really impossible.


Postman gave five suggestions on education: (1) Teach children something about art and science of asking questions, the most significant intellectual tool human beings have; (2) Revive The Trivium—logic, rhetoric, and grammar; (3) Teaching of scientific outlook, i.e., mind-set, something different from what is usually meant by “science”—instructions in physics, biology, chemistry, and related disciplines; (4) Teach about the psychological, social, and political effects of new technologies; and (5) Teach religion, or at least comparative religion. (pp. 161—173).

Annotations : Similar posts on education have graced this blog, particularly The Mis-education of Filipino Engineers, as well as about teaching or giving grades. What Postman observed and written in his book, I too have seen first-hand: students have become answer-givers, not question-askers. Maybe, we should heed his call for the revival of The Trivium. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, only grammar is taught in primary and secondary schools. Logic and rhetoric, often times lumped in one course called Philosophy, are elective subjects in college. I was even apprehensive taking a course on Western Thought because what would have been offered was a course on Eastern Thought, instead. Unfortunately, there was no course available on the latter during my college days.

I also agree with Postman’s call for teaching scientific outlook. He said, “Good science has nothing to fear from bad science,” [see also: Greatest Omnipresent Designer]. Furthermore, with emerging technologies, we would benefit from it if we do know and understand their various effects to our professional and personal lives. Of course, in the Philippines, religion is somewhat part of the curriculum, especially in secular schools. The point that religion and state should not mix was also raised by Postman, he considered ignoring religion in public school is “serious mistake” and asked:

“Is it possible to be an educated person without having considered questions of why we are here and what is expected of us? And is it possible to consider these questions by ignoring the answers provided by religion?”


The eight topics discussed by Postman’s book are also the same topics which «The Grey Chronicles» have blogged about. These topics are what I am passionate about, read about and concerned about. I am really glad to have chanced upon this book, and I know that I would be referring to the same in future posts. The book had been praised for its relevance, ambition and humaneness. And I hope this post would help readers rediscover Postman’s other books are well!


Postman, Neil (2000). Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 2000. pp. 126, 161—173, 192. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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