Education and the Cult of Modernism: A Personal Observation


132 pages
ISBN 0-9690833-0-0




Reviewed by W. Wray Roulston

W. Wray Roulston was a Business Librarian, Kitchener Public Library, Kitchener, Ontario.


As a member of the Department of Continuing Education, College of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Cassivi draws upon his wide experience as a public school teacher, university lecturer in teacher education, school board member, and director of a major curriculum project in Atlantic Canada, to present his very personalized philosophical essay on the destructive impact of the modern educational experiment.

Modernism, for Cassivi, has strong philosophical and political roots dating back to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment with their respective influences on the growth of scientific thought, secularism, and individualism. Successfully aiming his thesis at professionals and those interested in the entire field of education, he identifies eight dominant characteristics of modernism: perversion of democracy, intolerance, relativity of knowledge, relativity of values, rejection of personal responsibility, narcissism, process as end, and rejection of the old. These characteristics are then examined against contemporary thinking, highlighting seven topics: aims of education; policy, both national and provincial; administration; teaching, noting child-centred education, experiential teaching, open learning, and the importance of structure; the teacher and his training with the dichotomy between theory and practice (p. 104: “Educational research confirms among teachers that education is to be fundamentally purposeless — that the activity, the process, the methodology is the reason for pursuing the entire exercise”); education and equality; and special services such as those for the gifted or for careers. All of these have a strong impact on our children, for the author views “cult” as a “reversed cultism, in which the predominant group is the cult and those who oppose it are suspect” (p. 4).

In a brief conclusion, having exposed the problem, he calls for “a massive national program of teacher education ... aimed at addressing … ‘what should be taught in Canadian schools, why should it be taught, and how should it be taught?’” (p. 130). In light of educational restructuring, particularly in Ontario, and amid cries for a “return to the basics,” this essay is definitely appropriate for the times.


Cassivi, Denis, “Education and the Cult of Modernism: A Personal Observation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024,