PERIPHERAL VISIONS by Mary Catherine Bateson


Learning Along the Way
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 Bateson sets out to show that ``most of learning occurs outside the settings labeled as educational'' and that ``living and learning are everywhere founded on an improvisational base.'' Bateson (Anthropology and English/George Mason Univ.; Composing a Life, 1989, etc.) brings the reader along on a winding journey through different cultures to look at the process of learning as a spontaneous, nonlinear endeavor. The daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, the author has her intellectual roots in anthropology, but her writing is freewheeling, philosophizing, and personal. She spent time in Israel as a high school student; in the Philippines with her Armenian husband, as a professor and field worker; and in Iran with her daughter, Vanni, teaching and researching. The book begins with a scene in a Persian garden as Bateson takes the two-and-a-half-year-old Vanni to observe the ritual slaughter of a sheep in the Iranian countryside. The incident leads to Bateson's pondering the multiple levels of learning involved in participating in the ritual; the link between people and animals; the meshing of Eastern and Western culture; the connection between Islam and Christianity; the role of anthropologist as outsider and, in this case, as participant; the relationship between mother and daughter; and the class differences among the participants. It becomes a touchstone for Bateson's thoughts on how we learn. The book continues to string together seemingly disparate events, out of chronological order, which cycle back to Bateson's reflections on intellectual growth. It challenges the reader to remain open to learning and holds that goal up as one of life's great pleasures. But because the thinking rambles and the examples seem random, the book lacks the weight it needs to persuade or inspire.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1994
ISBN: 1-55594-748-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1994


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