A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan by John Culkin, S.J., 1967

19Sep17

John M. Culkin SJ, PhD (1928-1993), leading media scholar, critic, educator, writer & consultant.

This is an important essay that was published in the Saturday Review, March 18, 1967, that helped introduce Marshall McLuhan and his ideas to a wider North American audience and especially educators. It introduced the quotation “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us” that for a long time was widely attributed to McLuhan while it was actually written by John Culkin based on an idea that probably originated from McLuhan. Here are the first two paragraphs and part the third paragraph of the essay:

By JOHN M. CULKIN, S.J., director of the Center for Communications, Fordham University

EDUCATION, a seven-year-old assures me, is “how kids learn stuff.” Few definitions are as satisfying. It includes all that is essential—a who, a what, and a process. It excludes all the people, places, and things which are only sometimes involved in learning. The economy and accuracy of the definition, however, are more useful in locating the problem than in solving it. We know little enough about kids, less about learning, and considerably more than we would like to know about stuff. 

In addition, the whole process of formal schooling is now wrapped inside an environment of speeded-up technological change which is constantly influencing kids and learning and stuff. The jet-speed of this technological revolution, especially in the area of communications, has left us with more reactions to it than reflections about it. Meanwhile back at the school, the student, whose psyche is being programed [sic] for tempo, information, and relevance by his electronic environment, is still being processed in classrooms operating on the postulates of another day. The cold war existing between these two worlds is upsetting for both the student and the schools. One thing is certain: It is hardly a time for educators to plan with nostalgia, timidity, or old formulas.
Enter Marshall McLuhan. 

He enters from the North, from the University of Toronto where he teaches English and is director of the Center for Culture and Technology. He enters with the reputation as “the oracle of the electric age” and as “the most provocative and controversial writer of this generation.” More importantly for the schools, he enters as a man with fresh eyes, with new ways of looking at old problems. He is a man who gets his ideas first and judges them later. Most of these ideas are summed up in his book, Understanding Media

Please read the rest of this article, and in fact you can download a pdf of the first 3 pages of the article, from here: https://goo.gl/zCC32M 

 

However, to download the section of the Saturday Review that contains pages 70 to 72 that complete the Culkin article, download the pdf that contains those pages from here: https://goo.gl/z5DVF4

Culkin’s “tools shape us” quote is near the beginning of the continuation of the article on page 70:
3) Life imitates art. We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us. These extensions of our senses begin to interact with our senses. These media become a massage. The new change in the environment creates a new balance among the senses. No sense operates in isolation. The full sensorium seeks fulfillment in almost every sense experience. And since there is a limited quantum of energy available for any sensory experience, the sense-ratio will differ for different media…

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936) – “We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us”.

See also on this blog “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us” at https://goo.gl/pnVZFi

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2 Responses to “A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan by John Culkin, S.J., 1967”

  1. 1 paologranata

    BTW

    Attached you find a passage from J.D. Peters, The Marvelous Clouds. He quotes Ong, but not Culkin (pseudo McLuhan).

    [cid:E80AA91E-5FA3-4588-AF73-C82F629D852E@hitronhub.home]

  2. 2 paologranata

    the chapter, very interesting reading


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