Education in a Postfactual World: From Knowing to Understanding
Personal Thoughts about Education in a Postfactual World.
This was the third book that I wrote. It was book I started writing as a graduate student, and I had originally wanted to call it Abstractifying Nature. I think I got that word from Erich Fromm. An abstraction is a symbolic representation of something that is real. A smiley-faced emoji is an abstraction of a smile that an infant gives to their mother. 👶 Anybody who has had an infant smile at them knows that the emoji-version pales in comparison. Abstractions are useful, because sometimes you don't want to differentiate between the 100 different types of smiles you might give another person, so you give them a vague all-encompassing 😀.
Abstractification is what happens when you forget that there was any other smile than 😀. It is when you are unable to see the enchanting smile of the infant, and instead see only 😀.
In this book I tried to explain that education had replaced the excitement and spontaneity and creativity of learning and scientific inquiry with facts about learning and scientific inquiry--that education has become abstractified. I'm happy with the book, but it is awfully preachy. I do a lot of "this is what you ought to be doing" and "here is how you ought to be teaching" and so on.
I am disappointed with the publisher I chose. I have explained before that I was eager to get my third book out there, and didn't take as much time as I could have in developing my product or researching the market.
The conference presentation (Chapter 7, below) is still my most popular piece ever written, and has been read by over 5,000 people.
In this book, Whitehead argues against the fact-minded orientation of education and the practice of science. It is not that facts are unhelpful, but they have become a substitute for learning (learning is now tantamount to fact memorization). This change handicaps students by eliminating the possibility of creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking; it handicaps science by limiting the kinds of questions that can be asked and where to look for answers; and ultimately puts people out of touch with their experience.
The problem is fact-mindedness. Facts are the relics of enlightenment thinking. They represent unbiased and unquestionable truth about our universe. The more you collect, the more you know; the more you know, the more powerful you are; the more powerful you are…. You get the picture.
It is a familiar theme from the middle of this past century, and has been described by contemporary physicists, theoretical biologists, continental philosophers, humanistic psychologists, learner-centered teachers, among many, many others. Unfortunately, college students are seldom exposed to these ideas, and have to wait until they reach graduate school before they wonder if their learning experience may have been different. The goal is to make those ideas accessible here by translating the cumbersome, obscure, and turgid expression of these ideas into twenty-first century examples that are more applicable and meaningful for undergraduates and the educated public.
It is argued that judgment must always be applied to matters of fact. That is to say, the fact is not the end of the story. That gravity compels bodies does not substantiate itself: it is a way of describing the relationships between bodies. Gravity helps us better understand physical relationships, but by itself and outside of any meaningful context that fact of gravity is useless.
BUY: Amazon Link
Table of Contents
FOREWORD BY JAMIE BARKER, PHD
CHAPTER 1: YOU ARE BECOMING YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE
CHAPTER 2: THE WORLD OF FACTS
CHAPTER 3: KNOWING VS UNDERSTANDING
CHAPTER 4: LOSING, REGAINING CONSCIOUSNESS
CHAPTER 5: FACT-MINDED LEARNING
CHAPTER 6: FACT-MINDED STUDENTS
CHAPTER 7: DANGERS OF FACT-MINDED EDUCATION (Conference Presentation)
CHAPTER 8: YOUR BRAIN ON EDUCATION
CHAPTER 9: FACT-MINDED PHYSICS
CHAPTER 10: FACT-MINDED BIOLOGY
CHAPTER 11: FACT-MINDED PSYCHOLOGY
AFTERWORD BY GARY SENECAL, PHD