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The Primal, the Modern,
and the Vital Center

A Theory of Balanced Culture in a Living Place

Donald W. Oliver, Julie Canniff, and Jouni Korhonen.


The Primal, The Modern, and the Vital Center is a book for our times, our century, our civilization. The authors ask us to look at the quality of life and values we have adopted in our "progress" oriented, Modernist civilization. They ask us to revision what could be if we would be willing to examine our place in the ecology and mystery of life and to bring forth those values which best define our humanness. (William E. Doll, Jr., Louisiana State University)
Holistic education is more than a package of classroom techniques; it is a comprehensive understanding of humanity's relationship to the cosmos and the individual's relationship to nature and community. The late Donald Oliver, an intellectual mentor to many theorists working in this field, devoted his career to exploring these relationships drawing on the most relevant thinking in philosophy and the social sciences. In his last book, published by the Foundation for Educational Renewal in July, 2002, Oliver and his colleagues take a critical look at the "cultural errors" of the modern world that have diminished the meaning, vitality, and wholeness of human life. The authors focus on the quality of places where human interaction takes place, and argue that massive corporate organizations have usurped many of the functions of the more local communal places that traditionally mediated between the individual and the larger world.

Drawing on extensive research in anthropology, sociology, evolutionary biology, systems theory, and related fields, Oliver and his associates explain specifically what is lacking in modern technocratic society and show how a more balanced culture would nourish more of our human possibilities. The modern world has repudiated social structures and practices that gave meaning to human activities in diverse cultures for thousands of years, and while the authors do not advocate a simplistic return to earlier times, they argue that the "fullness of our humanness" requires us to honor "the legacy of our primal to modern biological and sociocultural evolutionary history." This is a book about wholeness and how we might reclaim it in a more balanced postmodern culture.

Although The Primal, The Modern, and The Vital Center is not a text on education, it is an important contribution to the Foundations of Holistic Education series because it provides a thorough, penetrating discussion of the cultural context within which education takes place. This book helps us understand why schooling has become a massive bureaucratic operation oblivious to the organic needs of growing, learning human beings, and portrays a vision of a society in which holistic education would truly thrive.

Psychology Press/Holistic Education Press
Box 328, Brandon, VT 05733-0328