Journal of Technology Education


JTE Editor: Mark Sanders

Volume 2, Number 2
Spring 1991


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BOOK REVIEW
 
 
           Toward a Philosophical Technology Education
 
          FERRE, FREDERICK.  (1988).  PHILOSOPHY OF
          TECHNOLOGY.  ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, NJ:  PRENTICE
          HALL, $17.33 (PAPERBACK), 147 PP. (ISBN
          0-13-662586-X)
 
                    Reviewed by Carl Mitcham
 
               Technology has increasing impacts on so-
          ciety and applications in education.  Tech-
          nology education, as a distinct area of study
          in K-12 schools, is slowly gaining a recog-
          nized place in the school curriculum that re-
          flects the importance of these impacts.  But
          what is the application of philosophy to
          technology?  This brief textbook introduction
          to the philosophy of technology in the highly
          respected Prentice Hall "Foundations of Phi-
          losophy Series" -- concerned, as it is, with
          what education in its deepest sense has to
          say about technology -- provides an excellent
          starting place for addressing this question.
               The text opens with an overview of phi-
          losophy as "the sustained effort at wondering
          critically about . . . comprehensive issues"
          (p. 2) applied to technology.  What consti-
          tutes technological knowledge (as distinct
          from, say, scientific knowledge)?  What is
          the relation between technology and human
          values.  How are technologically constructed
          objects (artifacts) different from natural
          objects?
               Such questions point readily to a need
          to define technology.  Chapter two consti-
          tutes a stimulating consideration of a number
          of key questions related to the concept of
          technology.  Must technology always be mate-
          rial?  Is it always science-based?  Can ani-
          mals have technologies?  Is technology
          natural or unnatural?  Developing a defi-
          nition that steers a middle course between
          the Scylla of excessive narrowness and the
          Charybdis of over generality, Ferre defines
          technology as "practical implementations of
          intelligence" (p. 26).  Building on this de-
          finition chapter three goes into greater de-
          tail to examine technology as the practical
          implementation of practical intelligence
          (craft), while chapter four describes that
          peculiarly modern form of technology which is
          the practical implementation of
          theoretical intelligence (science).
               The first four chapters of the text thus
          deal with definitional and epistemological
          issues.  The next four turn to questions of
          life and the problems of living with technol-
          ogy.  Chapter five, considering general is-
          sues of "technology and modern existence,"
          contrasts the "bright visions" of Karl Marx
          and Buckminster Fuller with the "somber
          visions" of Martin Heidegger and Herbert
          Marcuse.  Chapter six focuses on the ethical
          assessment of technology, mentioning specif-
          ically the moral problems that arise in con-
          junction with workplace automation,
          computers, nuclear
          energy, Third World development, and genetic
          engineering.
               It is unfortunate that questions of edu-
          cation and technology are not directly
          broached in chapter six, but each of the five
          specific areas of ethical concern certainly
          has implications for both the utilization of
          educational technologies and instruction in
          and about technology in the schools.  Class-
          room automation constitutes a kind of
          workplace automation that can be used to de-
          skill teachers.  Computers can be the basis
          for invasions of privacy of and by both
          teachers and students.  The risks of nuclear
          war and nuclear power generation come home in
          direct ways to the schools (remember the nu-
          clear civil defense drills from the 1950s and
          some recent debates about siting schools near
          nuclear power plants).  Technological devel-
          opment and education can raise issues of jus-
          tice and equity for minority students as much
          as for Third World countries.  Genetic engi-
          neering has implications for the kinds of
          students and teachers -- and, indeed, for the
          kind of education -- that will take place in
          the future.
               The last two chapters consider debates
          about the mutual influences between technol-
          ogy and religion, and technology and
          metaphysics, respectively.  The concluding
          discussions of technological models of human
          nature and free will versus technological
          determinism have direct bearing upon the the-
          ory and practice of education in the most
          general sense, and can provide the founda-
          tions for developing guidelines for assessing
          the appropriateness of technologies to dif-
          ferent educational contexts.
               Although the relation between education
          and technology is never directly addressed,
          this book provides reflective background for
          the informed development of a philosophy of
          technology education.  This in turn can help
          us move from the technological transformation
          of education toward the educational transfor-
          mation of technology.  
 
 
          ----------------
          Carl Mitcham is Associate Professor, Science,
          Technology, and Society Program, The
          Pennsylvania State University, University
          Park, Pennsylvania.


          Permission is given to copy any
          article or graphic provided credit is given and
          the copies are not intended for sale.
 
Journal of Technology Education   Volume 2, Number 2       Spring 1991

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