"Increasingly, we will cease to focus on learning as preliminary and see it threaded through other layers of experience, offering one of life's great pleasures."
"The capacity to enjoy, to value one experience over another, is the precondition of the capacity to learn."
"Looking, listening and learning offer the modern equivalent of moving through life as a pilgrimage."
"It is hard to think of learning more fundamental to the shape of society than learning whether to trust or distrust others."
"Human beings construct meaning as spiders make webs."
"The solution is to take responsibility for the choice of metaphors, to savor them and ponder their suggestions, above all to live with many and take no one metaphor as absolute."
"School casts a shadow on all subsequent learning. Trying to understand learning by studying schooling is rather like trying to understand sexuality by studying bordellos."
"Not only don't we know what we know, we don't know what we teach."
"Most of the learning of a lifetime, including much of what is learned in school, never shows up in a curriculum."
The utter simplicity of this book is deceptive. The ideas go very
deep and are shattering in their implications. Yet they are proffered
like cookies with afternoon tea.
All the key characteristics of "learning for the 21st century" as developed on this website are present in this book.
"But worse than this, textbooks are concerned with presenting the facts of the case (whatever the case may be) as if there can be no disputing them, as if they are fixed and immutable. [...] Knowledge is presented as a commodity to be acquired, never as a human struggle to understand, to overcome falsity, to stumble towards the truth."
"Of special importance are the ways in which the forms of questions have changed over time and how these forms vary from subject to subject. The idea is for students to learn that the terminology of the question determines the terminology of its answer; that a question cannot be answered unless there are procedures by which reliable answers can be obtained; and that the value of a question is determined not only by the specificity and richness of the answers it produces but also by the quantity and quality of the new questions it raises."
Postman is a very perceptive and incisive commentator on education in modern America. In this book, he looks at the ends that public schools are asked to serve, and how the combined weight of those is sinking the public school system. Postman investigates new ends for education that would invigorate public school. Very highly recommended.
"Not too long ago, in American culture, there was the simple tenet that the "three R's" were the basics. During the twentieth century, education in this country has been "modernized," and to that list of three R's have been added successively other subjects that were considered equally important. Consider the 19th century Britain: then it was felt that an educated person has to know Greek and Latin literature. In the Middle Ages the basics consisted of a course in natural philosophy, speculative philosophy, rhetoric, and so forth, and a very clear avoidance of practical subjects. [...] Unfortunately, the one we're stuck with right now in this country was determined by an industrial technological view of our culture that is obsolete."
Sudbury Valley School has a website. The school has been around for several decades and has been very successful. Surprisingly, until recently there were no successful clones or offshoots. More recently, a large number of schools based on the Sudbury Valley School model have been started, e.g. Clearwater school in Seattle.
"I would suspect that many children would learn arithmetic, and learn it better, if it were illegal."
"Children do not move from ignorance about a given thing to knowledge of it in one sudden step, like going to a light that has been off and turning it on. For children do not acquire knowledge, but make it. As I said before, they create knowledge, as scientists do, by observing, wondering, theorizing, and then testing and revising these theories. To go from the point of making a new theory to the point of being sure that it is true often takes a long time. Usually children are not aware of these processes, this scientific method that they are continually using; they do not know that they are observing, theorizing, and testing and revising theories, and would be surprised and baffled when you told them so."
"Anyone who has ever been to the movies knows that the size of the crowd in the theater has a big effect on how good the movie seems: comedies are never funnier and thrillers never more thrilling than in a packed movie house. Psychologists tell us much the same thing: that when people are asked to consider evidence or make decisions in a group, they come to very different conclusions than when they are asked the same questions by themselves. Once we're part of a group, we're all susceptible to peer pressure and social norms and any number of other kinds of influence that can play a critical role in sweeping us up in the beginnings of an epidemic. Have you ever wondered, for example, how religious movements get started?"
"You can only inflict so much damage on the biosphere, and on other human beings, with a bow and arrow. But with the emergence of modernity [...] global catastrophes, for the first time in history, became possible and even likely. From atomic holocaust to ecological suicide, humanity began facing on a massive scale its single most fundamental problem: lack of integral development."
"The idea, again, is not that any one of these various world views has the whole picture (including mine), but that the more of these worldviews can be seamlessly included in a larger vision, the more accurate the view of the Kosmos that emerges."
"The view we take in the following pages is that culture arises in the form of play, that it is played from the very beginning. Even those activities which aim at the immediate satisfaction of vital needs - hunting for instance - tend, in archaic society, to take on the play-form."
The classic work on the importance of play in the growth of civilization.
(Learning III) "is likely to be difficult and rare in
human beings. Expectably, it will also be difficult for
scientists, who are only human, to imagine or describe this
process. But it is claimed that something of the sort does from
time to time occur in psychotherapy, religious conversion, and in
other sequences in which there is profound reorganization of
Gregory Bateson, during his life best known as the spouse of Margaret Mead, is starting to become known as the father of Mary Catherine Bateson, whose book Peripheral Visions we laud above. What is striking about his work is his willingness to show work in progress - he shows both the excitement and the uncertainty in not having arrived at a final answer, and you are left thinking along, like it is your quest as well as his.
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