This critique of American education offers further subversion from Postman a quarter of a century after his Teaching as a Subversive Activity. Education must have a purpose. And the traditional purposes of American schools, the old cultural ``gods,'' as Postman (Culture and Communications/New York Univ.; Technopoly, 1992, etc.) labels them, are no longer viable. According to the god of Economic Utility, for example, there is a direct link between hard work and success. Yet there is little evidence in our society to document this. In fact, states Postman, during periods of high economic productivity, standards of educational achievement were not particularly rigorous. In our current economy we cannot assume that well-paying, meaningful jobs will be available to most students upon graduation. Since 1980, moreover, the author reveals that the largest increase in jobs has been in work requiring relatively low skills. A more recent god that has failed is the god of Multiculturalism, which Postman describes as ``a psychopathic version of cultural pluralism, and, of course, extremely dangerous.'' A multicultural curriculum, he declares, is liable to distort history and fall into the hands of extremists and propagandists whose main goal is to undermine European culture. Does this iconoclastic author of 20 books find any gods left to serve? Postman does feel American education can be salvaged with much reform. Multiculturalism, for example, should be replaced with a constructive law of diversity that allows us to ``help the young transcend individual identity by finding inspiration in a story of humanity.'' Anthropology, astronomy, and archeology, fluid fields requiring analysis rather than memorization, should become major areas of study. Education would improve overnight, contends Postman, if teachers were to get rid of all textbooks. Socially, schools must create ways to engage students in the care of their own school facilities and neighborhoods or towns. A provocative and insightful assessment of and challenge to contemporary American education.
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