Neil Postman and the Inquiry Mind

Neil Postman has been a strong contemporary voice in both methods and philosophy of education. His 1969 book "Teaching as a Subversive Activity" (co-authored with Charles Weingartner) introduced the concept of a school driven by the Inquiry Method, the basis of which is to get the students themselves to ask and answer relevant questions. The "teacher" (the two authors disdained the term and thought a new one should be used) would be limited in the number of declarative sentences he could utter per class, as well as questions he personally knew the answer to. The aim of this type of inquiry would be to provide the conditions for students to build progressively what they don't know on top of what they do, and for the teacher to understand, through close listening, what the student knows, from where he/she can continue to provide the conditions for the learner to progress, and develop their understanding. This may be opposed to methods based on answers and knowing rather than understanding.

Postman went on to write several more books on education, notably "Teaching as a Conserving Activity" and "The End of Education." The latter deals with the importance of goals or "gods" to students, and Postman suggests several "gods" capable of replacing the current ones offered in schools, namely, Economic Utility and Consumerism.

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