The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School

The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School

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by Neil Postman

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In this comprehensive response to the education crisis, the author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity returns to the subject that established his reputation as one of our most insightful social critics. Postman presents useful models with which schools can restore a sense of purpose, tolerance, and a respect for learning.


In this comprehensive response to the education crisis, the author of Teaching as a Subversive Activity returns to the subject that established his reputation as one of our most insightful social critics. Postman presents useful models with which schools can restore a sense of purpose, tolerance, and a respect for learning.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Claiming that our current educational system teaches students to worship technology and consumerism, Postman argues for more humanistic "narratives" as the basis for schools. (Nov.)
Library Journal
After 20 books (e.g., Technopoly, LJ 1/92), Postman, social critic par excellence, has returned to his original turf: education. Sharp, witty, and frequently quotable, he demolishes many leading popular themes as lacking in meaning. Education without spiritual content or, as he puts it, without a myth or narrative to sustain and motivate, is education without a purpose. That purpose used to be democracy and could still be, if only we were willing to look for the elements that unite rather than separate. Postman considers multiculturalism a separatist movement that destroys American unity. Diversity, however, is one of the themes he would employ in teaching language, history, and culture. Postman offers a number of positive and uplifting themes around which a new education philosophy could be formulated, some of which are far-fetched or extreme but nonetheless interesting. A most welcome addition to the education debate; highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/95.]Arla Lindgren, St. John's Univ., New York
Ray Olson
ne of the best writers among contemporary cultural critics, Postman is never better than when writing about education. His Janus-faced title refers both to the idea that schools as we know them are on the way out and to his own perception that American schools need new reasons--"ends" for learning. He calls such reasons "gods" --cultural conceits intended to inspire students to learn. He critiques gods that are failing in today's schools, such as the god of economic utility, in whose name students are supposed to believe that if they get through school halfway well, they will then get a well-paying job, and the god of consumership, whose golden rule is: The one who dies owning the most toys wins. He then proposes five new gods to make schooling vital again. He calls the five "The Spaceship Earth," "The Fallen Angel," "The American Experiment," "The Law of Diversity," and "The Word Weavers/The World Makers." If each of these rubrics has the ring of a familiar belief system, well, each is meant to. As Postman defines the five, they are myths, in the most complimentary sense of the word, for realizing ourselves as responsible individuals in our communities, from smallest to largest. Beautifully written, breathtakingly high-minded, this is Postman's best book on American education.
Well known social critic Postman begins by describing how schools early in the century sought to forge a coherent and unified culture from the diverse traditions, languages, and religions in the US. He then contrasts today's goals of economic utility, consumership, mechanical solutions, and separatist multiculturalism. Not surprisingly, he has some suggestions. He offers narratives for redefining education: preserving the earth, acknowledging the imperfection of knowledge, America as an experiment rather than success or failure, the strengths and weaknesses of all cultures, and the primary importance of communication. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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The End of Education: Redefining the Value of Schools 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Bail_Erick More than 1 year ago
Throughout all Postman's creations, he continues the same set of beliefs and morals. Technology can be used as a marvelous tool of learning or it can damage student's intellectual learning process. Students must learn technology as a craft rather than an outlet. In turn, they will benefit themselves rather than harm their education. The End of Education contains content that will force the reader to think "out-of-the-box" and relate personal experience with Postman's beliefs. Postman encourages people to grow and change because of something they have learned so that their life is more diversified. However, there must be a reason and a means for such change. It is usually abstract and hard to identify. It deals with systematic thought, yet it is completely different than motivation. Reason is the power of acquiring intellectual knowledge and unemotional thought; motivation is the act or state of being motivated. Postman believes that there must be a reason (not motivation) for taking a test, doing your homework, listening to the teacher, or even going to class. Without a reason, schooling does not work. In order to develop reasoning skills, you must have a god to serve. Serving, as well as choosing a god, is essential to understanding the reasons complexity, credibility, and power. Whether we believe in them or not, we cannot live without them because they play such an important role in reasoning and learning. Postman states that students who share a common god are what make a public school truly public. They may believe in the science-god (understanding, power, demonstrable, cumulative, correctable, practical), the technology-god (vision of paradise, convenient, efficient, prosperous), or the local-god (hard work, discipline). These gods control and have a sufficient amount of power to give point and meaning to schooling. These gods work in narratives to help direct one's mind to an idea or story. Postman envisions narratives that deal with directing peoples' minds to the origins and creation of the future. The significance of narratives relies on giving meaning to the world, especially through schooling. Narratives work to provide a sense of personal identity, community life, moral conduct, and life explanations, just as schooling should. He goes on to describe five narratives that may serve us better: "Spaceship Earth"; "The Fallen Angel"; "The American Experiment"; "The Laws of Diversity" and "The Word Weavers/The World Makers". Postman's most compelling argument, in my view, revolves around what he takes to be the "false gods" of modern education. What keeps our schools from being effective, he says, is the lack of commonly accepted stories, or the inadequacy of those we have in giving meaning and direction to schooling. At the moment, he says, education is geared toward economic utility, consumerism, technology, multiculturalism and other false objectives. Narratives such as these are incapable of providing a rich and sustaining rationale for public education. Postman is a strong believer that education must be for life, not merely on career sake. Postman also offers a number of innovations toward making schools more effective. He argues that textbooks should be altogether eliminated because they have a deadening effect on students and promote a view of education as the gaining of immutable facts. Postman created an enjoyable book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gives great insight into the lost art of teaching. His "gods" and "narratives" are ideas which should also be taken quite seriously. The "gods" and "narratives are ideas which should be addressed more frequently by teachers and parents alike. This book is an inspiration to teach. It should definetly be read by education majors or people considering teaching.