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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Six: Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)

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SIX

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)

Richard Ognibene

It is surprising and disappointing that so much of what has been written about the history and impact of the 1960s fails to include anything about education (Brokaw, 2007; Cavallo, 1999; Gitlin, 1999). It’s an unfortunate omission. An institution whose emerging ideology and practice during that decade was framed by books by Jerome Bruner (1960) and A.S. Neill (1960) at one end and by Carl Rogers (1969) and Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner (1969) at the other was making a contribution to a new emphasis on respect and care for individuals regardless of their academic ability, gender, race, disability, or impoverishment. This chapter will highlight one of those texts, Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity, a book whose primary focus addressed teaching and learning processes and alienation issues that affected students across the board. The chapter begins with an examination of educational developments in the prior decades that provide the context for the subversive proposals in Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s book.

The Non-Subversive Background

The goal and practice of progressive education as envisioned by John Dewey was modified almost from the beginning. Two years after the publication of his Democracy and Education (1916), a National Education Association report delineated a list of educational goals that were practical and non-intellectual, a trend that continued until the post−World...

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