The Flickering Mind, by National Magazine Award winner Todd
Oppenheimer, is a landmark account of the failure of technology to
improve our schools and a call for renewed emphasis on what really
American education faces an unusual moment of crisis. For decades,
our schools have been beaten down by a series of curriculum fads,
empty crusades for reform, and stingy funding. Now education and
political leaders have offered their biggest and most expensive
promise ever--the miracle of computers and the Internet--at a cost
of approximately $70 billion just during the decade of the 1990s.
Computer technology has become so prevalent that it is transforming
nearly every corner of the academic world, from our efforts to
close the gap between rich and poor, to our hopes for school
reform, to our basic methods of developing the human imagination.
Technology is also recasting the relationships that schools strike
with the business community, changing public beliefs about the
demands of tomorrow's working world, and reframing the nation's
systems for researching, testing, and evaluating achievement.
All this change has led to a culture of the flickering mind, and a
generation teetering between two possible futures. In one,
youngsters have a chance to become confident masters of the tools
of their day, to better address the problems of tomorrow.
Alternatively, they can become victims of commercial novelties and
narrow measures of ability, underscored by misplaced faith in
At this point, America's students can't even make a fair choice.
They are an increasingly distracted lot. Their ability to reason,
to listen, to feel empathy, is quite literally flickering.
Computers and their attendant technologies did not cause all these
problems, but they are quietly accelerating them. In this
authoritative and impassioned account of the state of education in
America, Todd Oppenheimer shows why it does not have to be this
Oppenheimer visited dozens of schools nationwide--public and
private, urban and rural--to present the compelling tales that
frame this book. He consulted with experts, read volumes of
studies, and came to strong and persuasive conclusions: that the
essentials of learning have been gradually forgotten and that they
matter much more than the novelties of technology. He argues that
every time we computerize a science class or shut down a music
program to pay for new hardware, we lose sight of what our priority
should be: "enlightened basics." Broad in scope and investigative
in treatment, The Flickering Mind will not only contribute to a
vital public conversation about what our schools can and should
be--it will define the debate.
"From the Hardcover edition."
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