D O C . 4 2 P O P U L A R T E C H N I C A L E D U C A T I O N 1 9 3
42. To the “General Association for
Popular Technical Education”
[Einstein 1920d]
A typed draft of this document was enclosed in a letter of 16 July 1920.
Published 24 July 1920
In: Neue Freie Presse, 24 July 1920, p. 8.
I am convinced that your association can be beneficial to a high degree. I will
not allow myself to make a judgment on its direct practical importance, but as a
teacher I can see a beneficial effect in more than one respect.
An educational system is always threatened by the peculiar danger of losing
contact with the world of sensual experience. Every type of education creates a
world of concepts. At their creation they are closely linked to realities for whose
comprehensive understanding they have been created. But the linguistically fixed
concept has a tendency toward generalization, on the one hand extending its
domain of application, on the other hand weakening the link to the sensual experi-
ence. Especially in their later stages, we see concepts that are becoming empty and
formal, losing their connection to what can be experienced sensually. Who would
deny that our Gymnasiums, whose focal point of interest is language, are exposed
to this danger to an especially high degree? But cultivating mathematics without
practical application faces the same danger, since even geometricians forgot, in the
course of centuries, that their knowledge, in the last analysis, deals with solid bod-
ies and rays of light. A geometrician who categorically denies this degrades his
science to a meaningless play upon words. Science can only advance and stay
healthy if its connection to the world of sensual experience is maintained, no mat-
ter how indirect this connection may be. Occupation with technology is highly
suited—as indicated—to counteracting a degeneration of science.
On the other hand, it is desirable to turn technology into a genuine factor in
cultural life by bringing its rich spiritual and esthetic content more into the public
consciousness. What does the better human being envision when he hears the
word “technology”? Is it greediness for money, exploitation, social preservation of
the people, class hatred, soulless mechanization, racial degeneration, a mindless
rat race . . .
Is it a surprise if the educated friend of mankind detests technology as
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