Agenda: Class 2
ET 690 Educational Technology Seminar
"Even if a narrative places one in hell, it is better
to be there than to be nowhere. To be nowhere means to live in
a barren culture, one that offers no vision of the past or future,
no clear voice of authority, no organizing principles. In such
a culture, what are schools for? What can they be
--Postman, pp. 13-14
"Free human dialogue, wandering wherever the agility of
the mind allows, lies at the heart of education. If teachers do
not have the time, the incentive, or the wit to provide that,
if students are too demoralized, bored, or distracted to muster
the attention their teachers need of them, then that
the educational problem which has to be solved--and solved from
inside the experience of the teachers and the students. Defaulting
to the computer is not a solution; it is a surrender." Roszak,
"It would be nice if the challenges that parents and policy
makers face when confronted with fads like school technology consisted
of nothing more than the basic pedagogical questions: What is
the purpose of school? What is the true nature of academic work?"
Oppenheimer, p. 191
- Questions and Announcements
- Discussion: Postman, Preface and Chapters 1-4
Political Discussion of Narratives
- Paul Krugman's January 14, 2011
column lays out a similar difference of narratives (although
conservatives would probably disagree with his characterization of
- Major Discussion Questions
- What is a god (lowercase "g")?
- What role does "truth" play in a god/narrative?
- What gods rule our lives?
- Postman's false gods: consumerism, economic utility,
- What makes a god a false god?
- Do we need gods at all?
- Additional Discussion Points
- Is educational technology overly concerned with the means
of education, not the ends? Most technology ends up reinforcing dubious
- Is this (Postman, p. 3) the purpose of education: "…to
become a different person because of something you have learned—to
appropriate an insight, a concept, a vision, so that your world is
- What is the difference between a reason and a motivation? (Postman, p. 4)
- Is science a god/narrative as Postman says on pp. 7-8?
- On pages 11-12, are the consequences of having no gods that
Postman lists, just gods that he doesn't like (hedonism/pleasure,
- People need gods, but can they tell if their gods are mirages? http://youtu.be/HKTqS4bXugg?t=2m44s
- False god #1: The god of Economic Utility. "The
purpose of schooling is to prepare children for competent entry into
the economic life of the community" (p. 27). What is wrong with
the premise that you are what you do for a living? Postman claims
that children don't buy this as a premise for school. This might
be true in elementary school, but is it true in middle school and high
school? Postman (correctly) says that we push this god on our
children; we use it as the reason we give to be in school. Do
children buy into this; i.e., does it work?
- "Any education that is mainly about economic utility is far
too limited to be useful, and, in any case, so diminishes the world
that it mocks one's humanity" (p. 31). Will students buy an
appeal to their humanity?
- False god #2: the god of Consumership: "goodness
inheres in those who buy things; evil in those who do not." (p. 33).
"Here, it is necessary to say that no reasonable argument can be made
against educating the young to be consumers or to think about the kinds
of employment that might interest them. But when these are
elevated to the status of a metaphysical imperative, we are being told
that we have reached the end of our wits—even worse, the limit of our
wisdom." (pp. 35-36).
- What does he mean by a "metaphysical imperative"?
- False god #3: The god of Technology. Technology is a
Faustian bargain (p. 41), giving some, taking away some. What has
the combustion engine given and taken away? What about
television? Technology is not all good with no evil.
- "What can schools do for Little Eva besides making still
more information available? If there is nothing, then new
technologies will indeed make schools obsolete. But in fact,
there is plenty" (p. 45).
- What is there that schools can do now that information is
so readily available. We simply don't need schools to get the
information to the students.
- What does Postman mean by a need for serious technology education (p. 44).
- By page 46, Postman assumes that computers isolate children. Is this always true?
- He doesn't blame technology for the problem but says that
technology cannot solve the problem. "I do not say, of course,
that schools can solve the problems of poverty, alienation, and family
disintegration. But schools can respond to them. And they
can do this because there are people in them, because these people are
concerned with more than algebra lessons or modern Japanese history,
and because these people can identify not only one's level of
competence in algebra but one's level of rage and confusion and
depression" (p. 48).
- Is this the purpose of school?
- False god #4: the god of Multiculturalism. In
Postman's view, multiculturalism is divisive. It seeks to throw
out White European history and replace it with the history of the
repressed. His claim is that "cultural pluralism" is the way to
go, not "multiculturalism." In cultural pluralism, there is room
for everyone's story to enrich the story of humanity.
- Narratives are not about true and accurate history but ideals for which we strive. (He makes this point around page 54.)
- Are schools merely a reflection of society? Can schools
have gods that are not prevalent in society? Are schools being pushed
by society to having "false gods"?
- One of the most challenging questions in education is that
of standards. Around page 80, Postman discusses this. Does his
explanation work for you? It certainly works in soccer because there
really is only one standard: the number of goals scored. How does this
work when comparing Beethoven to Taylor Swift?
- Read Postman, Chapters 5 - 9
- Read Winner,
"Do Artifacts Have Politics" (available on Moodle)
- Send email to the class as needed at email@example.com
- Snacks Next Class: Teresa and Heather
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This page was prepared by Dr.
David M. Marcovitz.
Last Updated: January 20, 2015