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224 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 to cringe at Simpson=s florid tropes. Indeed, much of the attraction of Dease=s narrative lies in its very monotony, which must convey something of the day-to-day tedium of the expedition (but which nonetheless is punctuated by scores of picturesque vignettes, such as the taking of a litter of wolf pups at the Dismal Lakes and the finding of George Back=s cache at Montreal Island). The introduction, notes, and biographical sketches bespeak meticulous historical research, much of which was undertaken by Barr=s colleague Ian MacLaren. One wishes for a fuller treatment of the manuscript; neither a bibliographic description nor an account of the principles employed in its transcription is provided. Some discussion of the relationship between Dease=s journal and the field notebooks on which it is based would also have been welcome. (BILL MOREAU) Kieran Egan. Getting It Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey, and Jean Piaget Yale University Press. x, 204. US $39.50 Since the publication of John Dewey=s Democracy and Education in 1916, educational theorists in North America have been consumed with the question of its importance. There are essentially two schools of thought: one which agrees with Dewey that education should be something like a mirror of nature; the other which argues that it should be more a reflection of culture. In his latest book, Kieran Egan insists that for theoretical reasons educators place no confidence in >nature= for teaching them anything about learning. In fact, for Egan, it is a faith in nature that educators have got >wrong from the beginning.= Theories which >biologize= the mind, treating it as an object of natural science like a tree or the body, have encouraged educators to organize learning materials around imaginary laws they find implicit in children=s nature, according to Egan. Hence, Dewey=s creed that an educator >has to find ways of doing consciously and deliberately what Anature@ accomplishes in the early years,= before a child arrives at school, has led formal schooling astray. For Egan, this belief >continues to undermine our attempts to make schooling more effective.= Pedagogies like Dewey=s >child-centeredness= or Piaget=s >psychological developmentalism= have guided North American systems of education towards low international test scores and a generally tuned out student body because they have no connection to how students learn. Interestingly, Egan locates the source of this naturalist distortion in a largely forgotten theorist of education. In the mid-nineteenth century, Herbert Spencer declared assiduously that progress was >a beneficent xxxxxxxx humanities 225 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 necessity,= the inexorable march of >man.= If progress could be predicted, then, science would teach us how. >The biographies of monarchs,= wrote Spencer, >throw scarcely any light upon the science of society.= The content of curriculum should be selected for its obvious >utility in the projected life of the student.= Like water for the tree, students require only those subjects which directly assist them to grow in and with their societies, subjects like social science and >utilitarian= activities (i.e., sewing) rather than history, classics, and the arts. Skills trump >irrelevant= knowledge every time. In contrast, Egan argues that we treat the mind as something altogether different from a >mirror= while resisting traditionalist projects of directly transferring culture. The mind for him is a collection of cognitive tools which are useful in particular ways in different cultural environments. There is no naturally preferred form of human intellectual maturity, according to Egan. Rather, intellectual life is a product of >inmindating= specific cultural devices (like abstract thought) invented within a particular cultural history. One can comfortably agree that it takes a generous interpretation of history to believe in the inevitable >progress= of humankind and that science can help us predict it. We=ve just emerged from probably the most violent century in our history, with every sort of atrocity committed by Spencer=s >man= upon man, in our most scientifically >advanced= era. Nevertheless, the notion of what constitutes good progressivist practices based on >scientific principles= is a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 224-225
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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