“The Challenge of Change: A Symposium
Central Washington University
April 15, 1985
Alvin Toffler claims we’re in the Third Wave; John Galbraith says we are the New Industrial State; Daniel Bell maintains we are living in the Post-Industrial Society; Francis Schaeffer states we’re in the “post-Christian age”; Zbigniew Brezinski writes that we are in the “technetronic age,” while Marilyn Ferguson posits that we are in the “transformation age” which she calls the Aquarian Conspiracy; John Naisbitt claims we are in the “information age” and our distinguished guest this morning maintains we are in the “communications era”. Perhaps as much to our purpose here today is Charles Malik’s notion that we are in the “age of the university” where the community of scholars reigns supreme among all of society’s other institutions in influence, power and prestige. Indeed, Daniel Bell refers to the university as the “paramount institution” in his “post-industrial society.” However, regardless of the term you want to apply to our age, there is a massive rethinking of our societal and individual values taking place at the present time.
Much of this rethinking puzzles me, some of it frightens me, and only a little bit of it comforts me. Whatever the case, our university must play a part in this rethinking because we have the time and the talent and should have the inclination to deliberate these matters. It is to this rethinking process that our honored guest addresses his life’s work.
I first came across the ideas of our speaker several years ago when I read of his notion of “sapientary authority” in 1975. Frankly, the whole notion of what I saw as a governing elite scared the pants off me, but it did cause me to begin to think about the future of our civilization and for that prod I’m thankful.
Robert Theobald, on the other hand, had a long and distinguished record of thinking about the future. He has written a number of books and has been a frequent guest on numerous TV and radio talk shows. He has his MA in Economics from Cambridge University and has done graduate work at Harvard, so he’s no stranger to academe. But I can’t determine if he comes as friend or foe to the current structure of our university. I do know, if I understand his books, he comes as an iconoclast and the icons he means to smash may very well be some of Central’s household idols. I give you fair warning–what he says about university education may unsettle you.
In his book, Beyond Despair, Bob Theobald has a note from his publisher which reads, in part: (Read from book)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
Because of the efforts of the President’s Office and some generous faculty, we here this morning have the opportunity to engage in dialogue one of the seminal thinkers in futurism. It gives me great pleasure, and a sense of expectation, to present to you, Mr. Robert Theobald.