Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The End of Education, Neil Postman, Random House, 1995

The End of Education, Neil Postman, Random House 1995

Neil Postman discusses education based in two aspects; narratives and “gods”. Narratives drive our underlying belief systems while the gods are the invisible leaders driving the education system. He discusses how the gods have misled us down the wrong roads in our American education system. He states that” our public schools are state run agencies and have no license to reconstruct society on their own authority.”(59) He discusses how schools reflect society but yet are lacking due to the gods of Economic Utility, Consumership, Technology, and Separatism. It is the narratives, he states that drive today’s educational belief system and can lead to the destruction of schools as we know it if we are not cautious and attentive.
He offers his solutions and his suggestions for change through five separate narratives; The SPACESHIP Earth, The Fallen Angel, The American Experiment, The Law of Diversity and The Word Weavers/ The World Makers. Throughout each narrative he uses anecdotes to stimulate the reader into imagining student learning happening within a variety of scenarios and how it connects with societies.

Reflection- Even though Postman had me intrigued at many different points, I had a difficult time grasping the idea behind the gods and narratives. At times he would go off onto tangents it was difficult to stay focused on his main point. I loved the fact that he challenges his reader to question, or almost argue against his point of view. He forces you to imagine a very non traditional world where learning takes place, but always brings you back to his motive. He wants people to question why we do what we do in our schools and what purpose does this serve. He keeps reminding the reader that educations must be about more than the classroom, that it serves a more important purpose in creating a globally aware citizen.
“…our public schools are state run agencies and have no license to reconstruct society on their own authority…Schools, we might say, are mirrors of social belief, giving back what citizens put in front of them.”(59)
“…America is not so much a culture as it is an economy, and that the vitality of any nation’s economy rests on high standards of achievement and rigorous discipline in schools.”(28)
“Students should not play life or merely study it, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”(Thoreau, 94)
Questions- If schools mirror society, what does this say about the current state of education and where the future might be going?
What do we need to do to change education so that we can balance the experiment of living with our nation’s capitalistic drive?

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