of books by Neil Postman

NEIL POSTMAN (1931-2003) is University Professor, Paulette Goddard Chair of Media Ecology, and Chair of the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University. Among his twenty books are Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly.

Building a Bridge to the 18th Century
by Neil Postman
Knopf; 1999

In his newest book Neil Postman makes a convincing case for the strong influence of the philosophes of the Enlightenment on our 20th Century thinking. The book culminates in a five point wish list on how to teach students critical thinking. Postman calls it developing a scientific mind-set, to learn how to be skeptical and ask the right questions, rather than just learn the correct answers. Why are we doing what we are doing and where do we come from. Two questions that refer us to the history of our culture and Postman tells us what could be done to achieve true science literacy. To pick out two examples, Postman suggests not to be afraid to include creation science as a comparative 'theory' to Darwin's theory of evolution. Let students argue about the Ptolemaic astronomy as compared to the modern view based on Galileo's observation and Newton's law of Gravity. By comparing not only the facts, but how these facts have been put forward in the first place, students will learn why a world view depicting the sun revolving around the Earth is no longer tenable, although we can see the sun rise every morning and set every evening. How many people could prove that this is a mere illusion? Similarly, comparing creationist's idea of a 'scientific theory' with the scientific theory of modern synthesis of biological evolution will be useful to teach the power of a falsifiable theory.

January 24, 2000 / © 2000 Lukas K. Buehler / go back to Book Review Home