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Coloring Outside the Lines Paperback – August 21, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Roger Schank is the founder and director of Northwestern University's prestigious Institute for the Learning Sciences. Before joining the faculty of Northwestern, Schank was th director of the Yale University Artificial Intelligence Project. A prolific scholar in his field, he is also, as chairman and chief technology officer for Cognitive Arts Corporation, a respected consultant to many Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (August 21, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930776
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,634,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By audrey pierce TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Roger Schank hates America's schools, and makes no bones about it. He criticizes attitudes, procedures and policies that were put in place in order to supply unimaginative and obedient drones to industry, and tells parents that if they're able they should homeschool, but if they're unable they should work hard to counteract the destructive effects of a school system that crushes imagination, original thinking and the love of learning.
Schank, a pioneer in cognitive psychology and computer learning, introduces the concepts of dynamic memory, case-based reasoning and scripts, and plays up the importance of computer simulations, role play and field trips. He draws heavily -- almost narcissistically -- on examples from his own children and parenting experiences, sometimes detracting from their utility or universality. For instance, he says parents and teenagers should take walks and long bus rides so they can converse. Huh? The author relates the story of how he and his teenage daughter, given the time and isolation of these activities, achieved better communication. What about a car trip? Plane? Blimp? Camping? He thinks kids should run for office, participate in sports and go to summer camp, whether or not they want to. Sometimes he makes the case, but again his examples and reasoning are so self-centered that one wonders how generalizable they are.
The author posits that most students do not need to be taught math or literature, but do need history and science that is limited to nutrition, health and reproduction. Here the author does a fine job of forcing you to re-evaluate your assumptions about education, but I didn't always agree with his conclusions.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazonbombshell on July 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Think you really know what's best for your kids? Read this book. It certainly isn't the be-all and end-all of wisdom on how we should educate our children, but it's the best work on the subject I've seen yet. To read it, though, you have to put aside everything you ever automatically "knew" about school (for example, that it's a good thing) and really THINK about it. What is the purpose of teaching higher math to a child with no aptitude for it and no chance of using it in her career? Why do teachers always insist that children sit quietly and never speak out of turn? Why do parents assume that school will prepare their child for life in the real world?
Roger Schank doesn't accuse teachers of trying to squelch children's interests or administrators of being bad people, but he does point out that the way the school system teaches is completely outdated and unintentionally destroys children's eagerness and passion for learning. To raise a truly intelligent child, Schank says, parents must take charge personally. They must work to undue the damage school does to a child, and to instill positive character traits in a child that will help him develop true intelligence: verbal ability, analytical ability, gumption, inquisitiveness, creativity, and ambition. There are simple (and not-so-simple) ways parents can do this, and Schank dedicates his book to telling us how we can help our children and also WHY we should take charge. He stresses that it isn't easy being a parent and it's even harder parenting a "smarter kid" -- but the goal is a child who knows who she is and finds herself as an adult in a happy and successful situation, doing something she loves and excells at. Isn't that a worthy ambition?
Altogether, COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES is an eye-opening look at education in our country and the future of our kids -- well worth the time to read and put into practice.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Leslie A. Moyer on July 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I alternately love & hate this book. Schank is into linguistics, computer science & artificial intelligence & in order to study how computers learn, he studied how humans learn. He is currently the founder and director of Northwestern University's Institute for the Learning Sciences.

I don't care for his writing style. Although he knows a lot of the concrete research, he puts it aside in order to tell us what worked with his two children. It comes off as narrow-sighted and arrogant. He extrapolates from "what works for my two children" to "this is what everyone should do". At the same time, I agree with most of what he believes about natural learning.

My biggest complaint with him is that the entire book is set up to explain how damaging schools are to children and how parents can undo that damage with the little time they have at home with their children. He constantly and almost-wholly bashes schools, teachers, curriculum, etc., but explicitly dismisses homeschooling as an extreme option. He has the attitude that "school was damaging to my children, but I did a, b, and c, and they survived intact, so you should, too." One of the tactics he used to get better services for his children (a change in teacher, for example) was to throw around his professional clout. He needs to step out of his isolated academic environment to hear stories from all the parents who *try and try and try* to get services for their children and don't get results because they lack that clout....or inner city or rural parents who don't *have* choices....or parents of children with learning disabilities. I kept thinking how delusional he is to think that parents can change the system--even for their one child. Maybe 30-40 years ago in small suburban districts, but not anymore.
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