Penn State

Christopher M. Hoadley - Associate Professor of College of Education, and College of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Teaching as a subversive activity

Author: Neil Postman

Book Description:

This book was the first book I ever read on education; my copy was a cast-off in a library sale at the public library in Flint, Michigan (I think I bought it for a quarter). The book not only captivated me with the vision that education could be a process of thinking, questioning, and active learning rather than memorization, but it also helped me see education as an important, indeed perhaps the most important, activity that a society performs to create a future from the present. When I first read the book as a teenager, I was enamored with the empowerment the book advocated for students. In college, as a cognitive science major I was more critical of the book because it didn't have any "science" in it. But in graduate school, as I became more and more of a teacher, I began to realize how useful vision and perspective are for getting things done, sometimes much more useful than "findings" or scientific laws--some questions require self-examination, not an experiment. I now look back at the book and see how some of what the book says that was radical in 1969, the year I was born, is now part of mainstream educational theory, if not mainstream educational practice. It's impressive to think of how much I've benefited from this change during my lifetime. The greatest boon of tenure is that one can advocate for ideas and for making life better, even if some see those ideas as 'subversive'. And if those ideas are good, they'll eventually stick.

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