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The End of Education


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Neil Postman was University Professor, Paulette Goddard Chair of Media Ecology, and Chair of the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. Among his twenty books are studies of childhood (The Disappearance of Childhood), public discourse (Amusing Ourselves to Death), education (Teaching as a Subversive Activity and The End of Education), and the impact of technology (Technopoly). His interest in education was long-standing, beginning with his experience as an elementary and secondary school teacher. He died in 2003.


After 20 books (e.g., Technopoly, LJ 1/92), Postman, social critic par excellence, has returned to his original turf: education. Sharp, witty, and frequently quotable, he demolishes many leading popular themes as lacking in meaning. Education without spiritual content or, as he puts it, without a myth or narrative to sustain and motivate, is education without a purpose. That purpose used to be democracy and could still be, if only we were willing to look for the elements that unite rather than separate. Postman considers multiculturalism a separatist movement that destroys American unity. Diversity, however, is one of the themes he would employ in teaching language, history, and culture. Postman offers a number of positive and uplifting themes around which a new education philosophy could be formulated, some of which are far-fetched or extreme but nonetheless interesting. A most welcome addition to the education debate; highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/95.]‘Arla Lindgren, St. John's Univ., New York

Because American society operates on the unspoken assumption that schooling is for preparing students for well-paying jobs, our educational system is falling apart, declares Postman (Technopoly), a New York University communications professor. In a wise and provocative essay, he argues that public schools subtly reinforce worship of technology, economic utility and consumerism. He outlines several alternative ``narratives'' that would give public schools a compelling reason to exist and that would motivate students to learn. These include ``Spaceship Earth,'' which casts humans as caretakers of a vulnerable, interdependent planet; the ``Law of Diversity,'' teaching how art, science, politics and customs have been vitalized through the intermingling of cultures; the ``American Experiment,'' portraying U.S. history as an imperfect crucible of democracy; and ``Word Weavers,'' the social and moral dimensions of language and its central role in transforming the world. Postman's visionary, perhaps somewhat utopian blueprint for transforming our schools sets a new standard for debate. (Sept.)

"Informal and clear. . . . Postman's ideas about education are appealingly fresh." --The New York Times Book Review

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