The American School: Education for a Democratic Culture: I

The American School: Education for a Democratic Culture: I

The ownership of the old ruling classes is not a thing of permanence; one can foresee the end of their control of both property and culture. The only difficulty is to identify concretely their successors. Who will inherit the culture of the educated and the leisured classes? It is a question not only of their ornaments and their entertainments, but of that whole range of knowledge and beauty which is the basis of creativity in the arts and also in science and politics. The product of the often painful labor of men of intellect and sensibility, recruited from all social classes, culture has been very much the “possession” of the ruling classes. And if they have possessed it, they have also protected it, given it a broad scope limited only by their interests and their security, and provided the social medium of cultural exchange.

If the new men in the realm of property are to be managers and bureaucrats, then it is at least possible that the new men of culture will be members of an increasingly narrow group of professional intellectuals: academicians and servants of the giant foundations. Deprived of the insulation of class barriers and of the patronage of men who owed their cultivation, so to speak, to their social positions, these intellectuals will be responsible, as never before, to public authority. By and large, the private sponsorship of cultural activity is already impossible; at any rate, it is not possible on such a scale as will guarantee a vital and significant intellectual life. The result of this will probably be a growing tendency to institutionalize the arts and sciences and to support them in some public fashion. Art and science must then justify themselves before their new patrons, no longer by claiming to enhance the lives of a relatively small group, but by claiming to serve the needs and to increase the powers of government and industry. The intellectual will fashion a specialization, cutting himself off from men in other fields; in it he will discover a new responsibility and then a new bond.


Lima