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News & Views - Feb, 1991 Issue 

Schooling: The Developing Child
By Sylvia Farnham-Diggory
(Harvard University Press)
($17.95; $8.95 paper)

School, unfortunately, is something all too many of us associate with multiple-choice tests, boring textbooks, and jarring bells. This bleak institution, Farnham-Diggory tells us, is the legacy of the educator Edward Thorndike, who conceived of school as a factory where students, passive recipients of knowledge, learned discipline by toiling at isolated tasks. The problem with the Thorndikean model, the author convincingly argues, is not only that it dehumanizes students but also that is simply doesn't work. It wrongly assumes that we learn by mastering a series of disconnected steps, whereas cognitive research demonstrates that we actually learn by encountering the "whole" in all of its inherent complexity. Farnham-Diggory's own vision of a school draws heavily on the child-centered philosophy of John Dewey. Like Dewey, the author argues that children learn best by participating in concrete, "hands-on" activities instead of being given parcels of disconnected information. While the author acknowledges that changing the current structure of our schools will be difficult, Schooling succeeds in spurring our desire for reform. - A review by David Ruenzel, former chairman of the English department at University Lake School in Hartland, Wisc., found in Teacher Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1990 issue, Vol. II, #3, p. 62.

Copyright 1991, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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