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Teaching As a Subversive Activity First Delta Printing Edition
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The book's authors, Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, score a number of points. They manage to "nail" educators for relying too much on the lecture method in which students copy, then memorize, the teacher's opinions. This is a very valid criticism; teachers do little to teach students how to think; we settle for teaching them what to think. The authors make another good point about the tyranny of testing, which has become far worse since the early 1970s.
Beyond these points, I found the book to be lacking. I think that the authors meander too far from their original point - that teaching needs to be reformed. They discuss an incredible array of topics in just over 200 pages, but the discussions are superficial due to the book's excessive breadth. And their digressions are not engaging and are often only tangentially related to teaching. For instance, the long list of quotations at the end of Chapter 7 is mind numbing.
The authors' arguments remind me of the old saw that it is easier to tear down a system than it is to build a new one. Many of their suggestions are quixotic, or just laughable. Consider what the authors suggest administrators do if students write graffiti about their teachers in school bathrooms; in this case, Postman and Weingartner state that the administrators should chisel the students' words on the front of their schools. Are they joking? Did the authors ever actually attend high school?
Some of the other ideas have the sound of bad 60s hangovers. For instance, Yale University adopted the authors' idea about eliminating grades in the early 1970s - with disastrous results.Read more ›
The book's appeal today is not what it would have been in 1969. At publication, the book was probably radical for its experimental approach to education that suggests that stimulating creativity and questioning is more important than the transference of raw data to students. Today it is fascinating because it makes you wonder, Did people really think like this? Were the 1950's as mindless and autocratic as this book seems to suggest? Has no one since Socrates suggested this kind of provocative education?
The book becomes frustrating if you attempt to seriously apply their conclusions today. In suggesting that education cater primarily to the felt needs of students instead of communicated what is decidedly essential curriculum, the authors have committed intellectual suicide. If you let high school students shape their studies around their interests, there would be classes in fashion and video games and blogging. The classes would be less likely to have reading lists, and instead only movies to watch.
Sadly, the book begins by quoting Hemingway's suggestion that we need a "[...] detector" (p. 5). The next four chapters are then pretty much some of that. It suggests that education should gravitate in the direction of questioning, relevance, and addressing only what the students feel is worth knowing. This is like telling children that they should only take the medicine that tastes good.
Then, surprisingly, the book improves (I'm wondering if one of the authors picked up here). It enters into a layman's take on perspectivalism (C. 6).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This ought to be required reading for new teachers. It is a passionate call for returning education to its roots, and the authors provide interesting questions and lesson examples... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jiang Xueqin
The most stimulating book I've read for some time I'd already thought through several of their observations but was delighted to see no twists in thinking arising from their... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Mr. D. P. Jay
Good insights into teaching. Authors recommend the "inquiry method."
Lots of references to educational research from 1930-1970. Read more
I first read this book as a college student when it was brand new. In fact, I still read that copy. I'm starting to give it to others, because it's just as timely 40 years later. Read morePublished 11 months ago by HNM
Terrible book. The author is extrememly cynical and satrical. Didn't find joy or use in it at all. Should not be considered by anyone entering the teaching field or working in... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Eric Anderson
I should have checked the date this book was published before I purchased it. Reading about changes in technology such as moving away from vinyl LP records did not inspire me. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Hedi A. Bingham
Teaching IS a subversive activity! Teachers, not "professional educators," teach kids to think for themselves and to make decisions based on what they've learned, not what... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Amazon Customer