THE CULTURE OF EDUCATION

This original consideration of the link between education and culture lives up to the Bruner standard of insightful, provocative, and essentially hopeful discourse. Bruner (Actual Mind, Possible Worlds, 1986, etc.), the doyen of cognitive psychology, has two ends in mind in this volume of essays: One concerns education in the narrow sense, and possible remedies for its current plight. The second addresses the larger theme of how we as individuals come to identify ourselves in a particular culture, a process that leads Bruner to the interesting conclusion that the future of psychology lies in a marriage to anthropology. As always, Bruner argues that learning is situated in a context, which for human beings involves the shared symbols of a community, its traditions and toolkit, passed on from generation to generation and constituting the larger culture. Bruner traces the evolution of the study of mind from schools of psychology and philosophy that have variously emphasized mind as information processor, mind as instrumental actor, mind as brain evolved from primate/hominid biology, and mind as a developing organ. How we construe mind influences pedagogy, from the concept that sees information flowing from teacher to fill the (passive) brains of the young to the cultural-psychological perspective Bruner now espouses. In a long first essay he outlines a series of tenets, ranging from the need to foster self-esteem in children to the importance of the narrative mode by which children come to recognize themselves and find a place in the culture. The essays that follow enlarge on these themes with telling commentary on contemporary society. The last chapter spells out why Bruner feels that if psychology is to better understand human nature and the human condition it must master the interplay between biology and culture. No doubt this will elicit ``yes, but's'' and ``no way'' from assorted academic fiefdoms, but the general reader may well find this an exhilarating notion well supported by this wonderfully argued work.

Pub Date: May 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-674-17952-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

STRINGS ATTACHED

ONE TOUGH TEACHER AND THE GIFT OF GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Inspirational lessons from the life of one tough teacher.

Today’s parents who lament their children stressing over tests may be horrified by the themes of tough love and tenacity offered by this biographical tribute to the late Jerry Kupchynsky, “Mr. K,” a gifted high school strings teacher from East Brunswick, N.J., whose exacting methods helped spawn the careers of generations of musicians and educators. Journalist Lipman and Kupchynsky, a violinist and Mr. K’s daughter, met as children when Mr. K joined his daughter’s exceptional talents on violin with Lipman’s on viola to form half of a string quartet that would also include Kupchynsky’s younger sister, whose disappearance decades later reunited the authors. The bond forged through the intensity of creating music is but one of the storylines running through this engrossing account of Mr. K’s life. Born in 1928 in the Ukraine, Mr. K endured a litany of wartime atrocities before immigrating to the United States as a refugee in 1946. But prior to fleeing to the U.S., it was the sound of a German soldier playing the violin that sparked his love for classical music. Surviving these early hardships helped instill in Mr. K an appreciation of adversity as a motivator, an unflagging belief in the value of hard work and a willingness to fight for the underdog. With a booming Ukrainian accent and “trim” mustache, Mr. K’s battle-ax demeanor and perfectionist drive struck both fear and a ferocious desire to succeed in the hearts of his pupils. One of his more unforgiving approaches involved singling out a section’s weakest player—“Who eez deaf in first violins?”—and forcing the guilty party to play alone with a stronger player until the weak one improved. While tactics like these may not have earned his students’ immediate devotion, they never forgot him and often found they could achieve more than they ever dreamed.

Moving and motivating—a must-read for practicing professionals and would-be musicians.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4013-2466-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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