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Critical Lessons: What our Schools Should Teach Hardcover – May 8, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (May 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521851882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521851886
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,673,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Education theorist Noddings calls attention to aspects of ordinary contemporary living: "topics, claims, and issues to which critical thinking should be applied, but [which are] rarely addressed in the schools." Her wide-ranging ideas encompass involving students as they directly apply those critical thinking skills to their lives. These skills touch on issues that all students will eventually face in their domestic world (e.g., the nature of learning itself, of parenting, of home building), their civic lives (e.g., the nature of war, of earning a living, of advertising) and their broader public concerns (e.g., gender, religion). Noddings, a Stanford education professor, has strong opinions about many of these matters, but she never loses sight of her main point: teaching through challenging questions that go to the logical and moral heart of the matter. She proposes a daring and controversial transformation of secondary education, one that would prepare "students for life in a liberal democracy [by offering] real choices among rich courses." High school teachers and administrators, to whom this book is particularly addressed, will be stimulated to fresh thinking about what they teach and why. Parents, general readers and inquisitive high school students will find it accessible and persuasive. (June)
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"Drawing on historical and pedagogical studies, literary analysis, and primary-source materials, Noddings provides a wide-ranging argument for the discussion of race, class, gender, consumerism, mass communications, the family, and the workplace in the curriculum.[...] This volume is likely to become an important resource for future scholarship."
--Library Journal

"Most readers of education-policy books like this expect the author to tell them what to think. But Noddings rarely advocates for any controversial position; instead, she gives teachers suggestions on how to begin provocative conversations, and offers ideas to keep these conversations safe, civil, and engaging. Most public-school graduates will find Critical Lessons a provocative course in their post- secondary education."
--Greater Good Magazine

"This book engages the reader from the introduction to the final pages[...]The author, past president of the John Dewey Society, moves through each of the chapters discussing key topics such as war, people, parenting, nature, propaganda, gender, and religion, relating them all to critical thinking and self-understanding. She weaves a complex book that is superbly written and combines literature, psychology, theology, philosophy, and liberal education."
--H.B. Arnold, University of the Pacific, Choice

"It is refreshing to read a volume written by an individual who has the understanding and experience to offer a well-reasoned, if radical, plan for curricular reform in public secondary schools[...]Critical Lessons should be required reading for every student in teacher education programs."
--Jean Shepherd Hamm, Feminist Teacher

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Critical Lessons: What Our Schools Should Teach by Nel Noddings (Professor of Education, Emerita, at Stanford University) focuses upon the critical thinking skills that modern high schools should be encouraging in today's children. "Know thyself," as Socrates once said, is not merely a philosophical soundbite; Critical Lessons argues passionately that the ability to know oneself and meticulously evaluate propaganda, the psychology of war, the motivations of other people, and platitudes voiced from all walks of life from churches to social groups to political parties to popular culture, is more vital than ever to sustaining a successful and healty modern society. Critical Lessons does not shy away from controversial topics, such as denouncing the concept that a benevolent God and a Hell of eternal torture as a logically impossible conundrum. A forward-thinking evaluation of positive changes to promote more independence and savvy in future generations.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Mann on December 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the reviewer who critiqued the book for its inquiry into so-called "traditional" values also supports Jerry Falwell's provocative claim that "Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions." Noddings fundamentally challenges this claim and suggests that in many ways, American public schooling at the high school level follows this thoughtless approach: content only, no questions asked.

The premise of the book is that our public schools should prepare students for life, not merely the workforce or college. Such an education, she argues, requires a balanced emphasis on both content and critical thinking (i.e. thoughtful judgment). This latter skill requires PRACTICE in the classroom, which can be accomplished by presenting diverse and competing forms of content on a given subject (building a knowledge base from which judgment can proceed), then giving students the opportunity to reason through their reactions or thoughts based on their own values and the possibly competing values of their classmates and teachers.

What is perhaps most controversial about the book is that the author also insists that an education geared towards building critical thinking requires a reconsideration of the subject matter currently taught. Importantly, she suggests that students have the opportunity to explore those matters that are likely to affect them most (and most deeply), such as religion, family life, career paths, propaganda, advertising and consumption, health care, military service and war. She does NOT advocate, as one reviewer suggests, a complete abandonment of "traditional" views or practices (as vague and imprecise as this term is), but rather a thoughtful investigation of those views.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James Charnock on April 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, I tried my best--and with high expectations, considering the interesting title--to read the whole book, but mostly I plodded along. I found my interest waning after lengthy Chapter 1 (all chapters are lengthy), except for the chapter on teaching about religious thought (or not). I could only bear a little over half the book. Noddings has a way of taking a good idea--I agree with her philosophy (see review below)--and voluminously expanding it beyond necessity. One big mistake of the book is that the last chapter, "Preparing Our Schools," is at the end instead of in the beginning of the book; it is more interesting than the Introduction. Such repositioning may, perhaps, motivate others to read more than I could. Finally, although it may not sell as many books, I think the book's front cover title should be more reflective of, and honest about, its content. That is, she is addressing HIGH school teachers and curriculum developers--yes, yes, I know, it does mention this on the inside flap; nevertheless, the front title should read: "...What our High Schools Should Teach."

The Creative Teacher: Activities for Language Arts (Grades 4 through 8 and Up)
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