The Two Cultures: Redefining Education with an Abacus and a Rose
David B. Temple
Lenoir-Rhyne University
Abstract
Abraham Lincoln wrote famously that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” This
paper will contend that neither can an educational system. Drawing primarily upon the
writings of Jacob Bronowski and C.P. Snow, but also including philosophers and scientists
such as Charles Van Doren, Arthur Herman, and Loren Eiseley, I will argue that the
central divide in education today is best represented by what Snow called “the two
cultures” the humanities and the sciences. Far from being purely a subject matter
concern, the fragmentation caused by this divide extends broadly into the cracks and
crevices of educational philosophy and policy, leaving us with uncertainties about the
nature of knowledge and the craft of teaching itself. What is needed, this paper will argue,
is a reimagining of what Bronowski called “the creative mind” - a reawakening to the
“hidden likenesses” that connect all fields of study and teaching. I will contend that the
rigid structures that have come to define learning and assessment cannot prepare students
for a world that will demand of them an appreciation of both the “abacus and the rose,”
and the ability to use them together is essential to redefining education.
The Two Cultures: Redefining Education with an Abacus and a Rose
“One of the hazards of academic life is the way its ethos and organization
encourages us to exaggerate the power and importance of disciplinary affiliations
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