The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding

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9780226190365: The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding

The Educated Mind offers a bold and revitalizing new vision for today's uncertain educational system. Kieran Egan reconceives education, taking into account how we learn. He proposes the use of particular "intellectual tools"—such as language or literacy—that shape how we make sense of the world. These mediating tools generate successive kinds of understanding: somatic, mythic, romantic, philosophical, and ironic. Egan's account concludes with practical proposals for how teaching and curriculum can be changed to reflect the way children learn.

"A carefully argued and readable book. . . . Egan proposes a radical change of approach for the whole process of education. . . . There is much in this book to interest and excite those who discuss, research or deliver education."—Ann Fullick, New Scientist

"A compelling vision for today's uncertain educational system."—Library Journal

"Almost anyone involved at any level or in any part of the education system will find this a fascinating book to read."—Dr. Richard Fox, British Journal of Educational Psychology

"A fascinating and provocative study of cultural and linguistic history, and of how various kinds of understanding that can be distinguished in that history are recapitulated in the developing minds of children."—Jonty Driver, New York Times Book Review

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Review:

Imagine the consequences if such polar opposites as Plato and Rousseau opened a school together--the results would be nothing less than schizophrenic. Yet, according to Kieran Egan, author of The Educated Mind, this is exactly the model upon which most of Western education is based. Historically, schools in the West have been chartered to perform three fundamentally contradictory tasks: to socialize children, to encourage conformity, and, at the same time, to develop individual promise. Instead of trying to pound different-shaped pegs into a one-size-fits-all hole, Egan suggests that educators take a new tack: shape learning to the way the human mind develops and understands.

Egan begins by defining five types of understanding: Somatic, Mythic, Romantic, Philosophic, and Ironic. Each kind develops at different points in a child's life and brings with it new abilities to process and integrate information. Throughout each phase, Egan is particularly concerned with the role of imagination in learning--a crucial role, in his opinion. The Educated Mind is not a textbook about methodology. Rather, it is a meditation on the way the mind grows and learns, and on how teachers--and students--might profit from these developmental stages by shaping lesson plans to fit the mind instead of the other way around.

From the Back Cover:

The ills of education are caused, Kieran Egan argues, by the fact that we have inherited three major educational ideas, each of which is incompatible with the other two. Is the purpose of education to make good citizens and inculcate socially relevant skills and values? Or is it to master certain bodies of knowledge? Or is it the fulfillment of each student's unique potential? These conflicting goals bring about clashes at every level of the educational process, from curriculum decisions to teaching methods. Egan's analysis is cool, clear, and wholly original, and his diagnosis is as convincing as it is unexpected. Not content with a radical diagnosis, Egan presents us with a new and sophisticated alternative. Egan reconceives education as our learning to use particular "intellectual tools" - such as language or literacy - which shape how we make sense of the world. These mediating tools generate successive kinds of understanding: somatic, mythic, romantic, philosophical, and ironic. As practical as it is theoretically innovative, Egan's account concludes with practical proposals for how teaching and curriculum could be changed to reflect the ways we actually learn.

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