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Volume 90, Issue 92
Wednesday, March 19, 1997
Is it time to revamp the education system?
The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School
By Neil Postman
Paperback, $16.95, 209 pages
For those involved in scholastic pursuits, namely the vast majority of us, there is an unending search to either receive or give an education that is both meaningful and useful. The End of Education offers not only philosophical, but practical insights to serve these two purposes.
Neil Postman is a prominent authority on the philosophical basis for modern education. As a pedagogue and author of several books on similar topics, he is amply equipped with an erudite background to expound ideas both new and old. Yet his self-reflective style of writing gives the reader a sense of familiarity with the author that makes this work highly accessible to a very wide audience. It is, at the very least, required reading for the educational professional.
Postman's essential quest in this work is to explore the purposes of elementary and secondary schooling in America, rather than pursuing the already belaboured methodology expounded by educational scholars. The End of Education yields an astute criticism of how each element of a school's curriculum should be viewed in terms of its historical background and its interplay with other aspects of early schooling. He draws upon the knowledge of scholars throughout history to broach the topics of technology, multiculturalism, curriculum and language, as they relate to contemporary views on the subject of education as well as, but to a lesser extent, modern society. How these elements contribute to the character of the individual student and in turn, their impact on national constitution, is brought under close scrutiny by Postman since he postulates that education is the root of identity. While some of these areas may be unsavory for an educator to consider, Postman gives them fair attention as he exposes weaknesses as well as positive attributes that require further exploitation. Having done this, he proposes various means to ameliorate existing shortcomings of education and fresh, plausible ideas to implement further change, all within the context of the present American institution.
The only disappointment in this book is Postman's lack of confidence that his proposals will ever be instituted on a large scale or taken seriously by modern educators. Yet his conviction to his ideals and his innovative ideas may stand to spur individual educators to action. Ultimately, through his various explorations, Postman implores a re-examination of the motives behind education at the threshold of the 21st century. A worthy undertaking for all academics.
Art Objects: Essays on Ecstacy and Effrontery
By Jeanette Winterson
Paperback, $14.95, 192 pgs.
Since her 1985 novel, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson has given lessons on life, love and the importance of the arts. Fantastic imagery, created by her talent for sensual writing, communicates Winterson's ideas on an emotional level. Despite her works' erotic characteristics, Winterson's writing is not tawdry or showy. Her purpose is to re-educate society's scientific or progressive sensibilities.
Winterson has mastered the exact nature of language and has devised a perfect expression of life and beauty in her essays. Art Objects: Essays on Ecstacy and Effrontery is a compilation on literature and other artistic forms and their importance to the human spirit. Through thoughtful references to Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolfe and T. S. Eliot, Winterson notices a universal element restricted to legitimate works of art, whether the works be painting, music or poetry. Art fosters an emotional and intellectual experience or reaction in the mind of the viewer.
Furthermore, Winterson dismisses seemingly arbitrary classification of any art by its author's particularities or its blatant characteristics. Winterson argues that art is not produced for special interest groups by people with agendas. She precisely argues against artistic segregation by authors' gender, religion, nationality and sexual orientation. For example, works by two women can be completely dissimilar; their only uniting feature being the gender of the creator. Classification along superficial lines is futile when making value judgments. Art is an expression by the artist to be agonized over, examined and enjoyed by all humanity.
Winterson's mastery of language makes reading her theories and recollections pleasurable. Winterson validates the arts not by denying their emotional appeal, but through passionately embellished arguments. She acknowledges the need for art for the sake of art and for the sake of humanity. Every idea flows into the next with such astonishing ease that her concepts are a seamless perfection of well-argued opinions which can not be casually refuted. Through her essay she advances her own art, which her readers have come to love and the world will come to admire.
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