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Teaching As a Subversive Activity [Paperback]

by Neil Postman, Charles Weingartner
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 15, 1971 0385290098 978-0385290098
A no-holds-barred assault on outdated teaching methods--with dramatic and practical proposals on how education can be made relevant to today's world.

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Teaching As a Subversive Activity + The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School + Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (July 15, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385290098
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385290098
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neil Postman was chairman of the department of communication arts at New York University. He passed away in 2003.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 107 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant June 8, 2001
Quite simply one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read. However hard it is to get a copy, it is MUST reading for anyone involved in educating people. Heavily influenced by McLuhan, this book is devastating in showing what classrooms REALLY teach - that there is one right answer, that the teacher has it, that memorising facts is important, that fellow students have nothing to contribute, etc etc - and how to construct an environment in which REAL learning takes place - where people learn how to learn themselves. This is one of those books that shakes one's previously-unexamined foundational assumptions of education. I cannot recommend it too highly.
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106 of 130 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Dissenting Opinion March 5, 2008
Most reviewers seem to like Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I am not among the book's fans.

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.
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60 of 75 people found the following review helpful
When the first chapter of a book on education is called 'Crap Detecting', you know you are on to a winner! Postman's provocative look at the nature of the classroom and how we educate our children is a must read by anyone who has a real interest in education being about more than tests and tick boxes. I have read this book many times and have never failed to be challenged, enthused and uplifted by it. My classroom and teaching style has been transformed by it - read it!!! Your teaching will never be the same again!
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is easily within the five best books I ever read. I read it through maybe 15 times. It helped explain to me my 12 years of school - what actually went on there. It has highly provocative ideas concerning what goes on in school. It still help guides me in my advanced and home studies. Highly recommended for all students, and teachers. A very good read for all who are not brain dead. I am not a teacher
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55 of 74 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not promising April 21, 2006
This book has some pleasant surprises, but leaves the reader with an overall sense of frustration.

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).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book & speedy delivery
Shakes your teaching philosophy to the core...if you let it. Very lucid writing style and logical support of arguments. Language is key!
Published 3 days ago by Arpan Chokshi
5.0 out of 5 stars This book written in 1969 is very relavant today!
Our schools are still similar to the outdated schools this book describes. The recommendations they suggest are not being put forth today.
Published 1 month ago by craig willis
1.0 out of 5 stars Nowadays, Postman's views are mainstream.
It is interesting reading Postman's 60s radical polemic as a teacher nowadays. Much of what he advocates - radical though it may have been at the time, is now mainstream in many... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Sirin
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe you can make a difference.
Made me feel proud to be a teacher. With economic rationalism and disrespect towards teachers prevalent today. this book is affirming in the value of teaching.
Published 4 months ago by magpie
5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Those who seek what the Masters sought.
This is one of the best books I've read on teaching. Required reading by those who would praise Malcolm Gladwell. Read more
Published 4 months ago by DurgaDas
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Postman and Weingartner Are Still Relevant!
As relevant today as when it was written over 40+ years ago. In clear, precise and compelling narratives the authors lay out the plan for truly teaching for understanding. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Harold Kahn
5.0 out of 5 stars Please see my Goodreads/Blog Review
See my blog review (also on Goodreads) at bit (dot) ly / 10uErbT [use a period for (dot) and no spaces).

Very good book that teachers ought to read. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Dean Chia
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book for Teachers
A great book with wisdom for learning and teaching. I am a teacher who uses the principles in my classroom and they work.
Published 12 months ago by J. C. Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars early inquiry-based learning manifesto
This book is truly classic. It is an early manifesto of inquiry-based learning, a style of education that falls within the constructivist philosophy. Read more
Published 15 months ago by JB
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful Critique on Modern Education's Problems
While this book was written 50 years ago, its advice and remarks
on the educational process is still very current. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Barry Baumgardner
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