Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Randolph S. Bourne and Assumption College


Randolph S. Bourne and Assumption College

Peter Schultz


            Randolph S. Bourne, while dissenting from America’s participation in World War I, argued that America “suffer[ed] from a real shortage of spiritual values.” One reason for this; “the allure of the technical,” especially of the “war-technique.” The political result, at best: “a government by prudent, enlightened college men instead of by politicians,” those who sought nothing more than to make “everybody a partner in the booty of exploitation.” [62-63, Collected Essays]


            Bourne’s assessment points to the superiority of Assumption College’s original motto, “Until Christ Be Formed in You,” to the later one, “Learn, Achieve, Contribute,” because the original recognizes that the most important goal is the formation of spiritual values, and not the creation of technicians who “have never learned not to subordinate idea to technique.” [60]


            And the original, like Bourne, recognizes that spiritual values must be formed, that they aren’t like low-hanging fruit easily picked and consumed. Finally, the original motto is at least open to the idea that the formation of spiritual values requires what Bourne called “poetic vision.” That is, their formation requires something much more than the “pragmatic realism” that the later motto and most American intellectuals assume is the peak of human knowing.

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