Bring Me Back Some of the Old Time McLuhan Religion

This semester in the UMass M.Ed Instructional Design program I’m taking a course on selecting and evaluating instructional materials. I was thrilled when the instructor of this course kicked things off with a bit of Marshall McLuhan.  Ah, that Old Time McLuhan Religion… it brought back memories of sultry summer nights driving through downtown Montreal, listening to Dromotexte on CKUT on my car radio. There was magic in the air when I first heard this:

…and this….

So now, thanks to this course I’m taking, McLuhan has come back to me after all these years and is reminding me that, “we shape our tools (instructional materials), and thereafter our tools (instructional materials) shape us.”

I also enjoyed hearing McLuhan the Prophet’s words again in the year 2011, now in our Age of Facebook and Twitter.  Check out these little gems:

“There ain’t no grammatical errors in a non-literate society.”

“Publication is a self-invasion of privacy.”

“The older, traditional ideas of private isolated thoughts and actions are patterns of mechanistic technology are very seriously threatened by new patterns of instantaneous electric information retrieval, by the electrically computerized  dossier, that one big gossip column that is unforgiving and unforgetful and for which no redemption and no erasure of our mistakes.”

“Our is a brand new world of all-at-onceness. Time has ceased. Space has vanished. We now live in a global village of simultaneous happening. We’re back in acoustic space. We have begun again to structure the primordial feeling, the tribal emotions from which a few centuries of literacy have divorced us. The tribalizing process, the inner trip, the depth involvement in the experience of the unified human family, that is something of which we’ve had no experience for many centuries.  It is a process that is located so entirely in the present that it does not appear at all in the rear-view mirror to which we habitually look to for reassurance and nostalgic orientation. Joyce called it all space in a naught shell, a naught shell being an eternal present.”

Of course there is also McLuhan the Educator whose words are even more pertinent to me now, than ever before:

“Training will be more concerned with training the senses and perceptions, than with stuffing brains. “


Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.”

Of course, I found the greatest pleasure and comfort in the words of McLuhan the Generalist… or at least, the McLuhan Anti-Specialist:

“Where the whole man is involved there is no work. Work begins with the division of labor.”

“The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving toward the grand fallacy.”

“The scientist rigorously defends his right to be ignorant of almost everything except his specialty.”

Bringing it all together, we can cap it off with two more McLuhanisms:

“The trouble with a cheap, specialized education is that you never stop paying for it.”


“When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?”

Good question, Marshall.


About danspira

My blog is at: My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on March 11, 2011, in Career, Diversions, Instructional Design, Learning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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