Monday, February 20, 2012

Review of The End of Education by Neil Postman

Postman, Neil. The End of Education. New York. Vintage Books. 1995. Print

I decided to write a quote and then follow it with a response for my format. This book had some decent points that were diluted by wordy prose and undocumented "facts".

Relevant Quotes-

“...public education does not serve a public. It creates a public.” (Postman, 18)

I thought this was the most important quote in the book. If politicians subscribed to this view we wouldn’t have underfunded schools or schools that are just hoops for students to jump through. Do we as a society want to create a public of independent thinkers, or do we want compliant workers who are good at following directions. In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, the US was a manufacturing powerhouse. If our high schools churned out workers ready for factory life, then our schools did their job. Our manufacturing base has gone overseas. We now need a public who can get any information they want from the internet after a 1.3 second search. We need to create a public that can process information to determine what is important and how to use the information to make the world a better place.

“Scores are important, but not as important as the process that produces them, a point of view that surprises no one, since America was the first nation to be argued into existence.” (Postman, 84)

Most of the teachers at my school subscribe to this notion. In our gradebooks we emphasize Process, Product, and Content. This de-emphasis on the final product has had a lasting impact on our students. When our students go to college they do not get down if they bomb a test, the realize that they need to try harder and ask for more help.

“How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?”
(Postman, 94)

Postman went on for four pages to describe a state of emergency where the students took charge of major parts of city life. In this city, students ran day care centers, published newspapers, ran transportation services for college students, and basically ran many parts of the city. I was so excited to see where this happened. I stopped my reading and did an extensive googling of this scenario, only to find out several pages later that it was just a fable. Really? I like his point of giving students real world internships and projects where they can make an impact on society. However, Postman;’s argument would have carried more weight if it actually happened on a small scale.

“I do not fail to inform students, by the way, that there has recently emerged at least some (though not conclusive) evidence of a scientific nature that when sick people are prayed for, they do better than those who aren’t” (Postman, 38)

This last quote neatly summarizes why anything Postman writes must be taken with an enormous grain of salt (assuming you can get a large enough grain of salt, and that you can get through the sentence without smashing yourself in the head with a bottle, because he is so wordy. Damn you Postman, you have me doing it now!) Unfortunately, Postman’s citation for this quote led to a dead end of searches. For such a well respected author, I was extremely disappointed when he made a such a controversial statement like that, but had nothing in his citation for it that could back his statement up.

“There is no escaping the fact that when we form a sentence, we are creating a world.” 72

I wish the world Neil Postman would have been a more direct and to the point world. This book was extremely hard to read due to Portman’s long winded prose. In one paragraph he quoted five different philospohers. At times Portman’s writing reminded me of writing papers in 10th grade when I used to jam as many quotes into an essay as possible. Postman makes some very good points, but when you have a sentence like this, one that is constantly interrupted, it becomes hard to create a flow, a flow necessary for the reader to understand your thoughts, and without flow, your point is diluted, a dilution which... hopefully you get my point about Postman’s long winded sentences. Postman does make some good points, but his writing style is so cumbersome that his points get lost in translation. When you have a long winded writing style and you have claims that are not substantiated through your citations, it is hard to take anything else you say seriously.

1 comment:

ADmin said...

a piece is an aggregation of sentences and an exposition is an assembly of passages.

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