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Life Arts    H3'ed 3/6/23

Humanity, Technology, and American Society Today (REVIEW ESSAY)

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Walter Ong
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) March 6, 2023: After I published my OEN article "Nathan Heller on 'The End of the English Major'" about technology and the humanities on March 3, 2023, I read Eric Schmidt's remarkable article "Innovation Power: Why Technology Will Define the Future of Geopolitics" in Foreign Affairs, published on February 28, 2023:


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In light of Schmidt's remarkable article, perhaps the time has now come for American colleges and universities to institute technology-across-the-curriculum comparable to the multi-disciplinary Man, Technology, and Society (MTS) program that Saint Louis University (SLU), the Jesuit university in St. Louis, Missouri, instituted in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, a subsequent budget crisis at SLU lead to the demise of the MTS program there. Nevertheless, the 63-page description of the MTS program at SLU in the mid-1970s, which includes a short description of each technology-themed course in the MTS program offered by the departments of biology, communication, computer science, English, history, modern languages, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, social work, sociology, theology, and urban affairs, can still serve as a useful model for American colleges and universities today to use as they develop their own technology-across-the-curriculum programs.

In any event, as a follow up to my OEN article on technology and the humanities, I now want to discuss humanity, technology, and society a bit more in the present review essay.

In my OEN article, I highlighted the theme of technology in the mature work of the American Jesuit Renaissance specialist and pioneering media ecology theorist Walter J. Ong (1912-2003; Ph.D. in English, Harvard University, 1955). Ong taught the course Technology and the Creation of Literature course in the MTS program at SLU. Here, I would now like to draw your attention to the following two essays by Ong:

(1) "Technology Outside Us and Inside Us" in the journal Communio: International Catholic Review, volume 5, number 2 (Summer 1978): pp. 100-121; it is reprinted in volume one of Ong's Faith and Contexts, edited by Thomas J. Farrell and Paul A. Soukup (Scholars Press, 1992a, pp. 189-208;

(2) "Writing is a Humanizing Technology" in the ADE Bulletin [ADE = Association of Departments of English, a subset of the Modern Languages Association of America], serial number 74 (Spring 1983): pp. 13-16.

Now, as part of my timely effort to promote the spirit of studying humanity, technology, and American society today in technology-across-the-curriculum programs in American colleges and universities, I am also publishing here material about the intensive-reading introductory-level survey course Literacy, Technology, and Society that I taught each academic year for a number of years as part of the University of Minnesota Duluth's Liberal Education Program. In Appendix I below, I present the course syllabus. In Appendix II below, I present the final exam in the course.

Appendix I

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; Ph.D.in higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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