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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