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Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century Hardcover – 25 Oct 1999

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Random House USA Inc; 1 edition (25 Oct. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375401296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375401299
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 15.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The day before I began writing this book, I heard on the radio that somewhere between thirty-five percent and sixty-two percent of Americans believe that aliens have landed on Earth. Read the first page
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. J. Weeks on 10 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Postman is a fan of the Enlightenment. He is very critical of the post Enlightenment modern world. He never used a typewriter, much less a computer. His critique of television is scathing as is his debunking of postmodernism. I found him both stimulating, informative and yet contradictory. He says modern man had lost a narrative to validate modernity. He has, I would say lost more than the narrative. he has lost not only a unifying world view but the attempt to find one. Postman is a great fan of childhood and of proper education. His writing on the history of childhood is fascinating. His views are sometimes surprising. He would have both evolution and creation science taught in school so the difference between good and bad science could be examined. He also sees that teachers need to know the history of science, and I would add, its limitations. The Enlightenment he says made us question everything, bringing scepticism about authority, critical learning. God has been dethroned. Man is the measure of all things. I am reminded of Connor Cruise O'Brien wring that the Enlightenment got God off our backs. Yet Postman is not a militant atheist. He wants comparative religion taught in schools for he knows religions have formed cultures. He also informs us that some famous Enlightenment figures like Paine were not atheists. This book shows us where the Enlightenment came from and where it brought benefits. he tries to give prescriptions for a return to the great Enlightenment ideas but I fear he does not give us the reasons why the Enlightenment's children have got us into our present mess. His advice is good but only part of what is needed for recovery of our true humanity as people in God;s image. History is his forte. He deserves a critical appreciative reading.
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77 of 82 people found the following review helpful
Neil Postman for Secretary of Education 16 Oct. 1999
By Arnold Kling - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book speculates about the advice we might receive about our current society from the great philosophers of The Enlightenment.
How could that possibly be interesting or relevant? When you read the book, you will find out.
It is difficult to do second-hand justice to the book, in part because the writing is so superb. Some examples of his curmudgeonly style:
"to insist that one's children learn the discipline of delayed gratification, or modesty in their sexuality, or self-restraint in manners, language, and style is to place onself in opposition to almost every social trend."
"question-asking is the most significant intellectual tool human beings have. Is it not curious, then, that the most significant intellectual skill available to human beings is not taught in school?"
[after suggesting that students be presented with both evolution and creation science] "'If we carried your logic through,' a science professor once said to me, 'we would be teaching post-Copernican astronomy alongside Ptolemaic astronomy.' Exactly." [Postman's point being that scientists have to learn to evaluate competing theories, not to accept the conventional scientific wisdom on faith]
Postman disdains the Internet. He seems to view it as not being much different from television in its effects. Here I disagree with him. This disagreement is explained more fully in "Building a Bridge to Neil Postman," an essay that is available from me via email.
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
One of Postman's best 1 Feb. 2001
By Voice of Chunk - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Postman's books have always divided readers. Some feel that his critical eye is too focused on the past and doesn't adequately and realistically weigh in today's cultural variables. Others feel that his is one of the most stable and eloquent voices of reason in a predominately subjective society. While I'll admit that Postman is oftentimes to social criticism what Wynton Marsalis is to jazz, he is first and foremost a questioner, a modern day Socrates who asks how technology both hurts and helps us. It is his empirical approach that keeps me buying his books.
To reduce Postman to a traditionalist is far too limiting. While he does champion the past and favor reason over emotion, he is also an idealist who believes that society has the power to cure what ails it, if it's only willing to take the necessary steps. "Building A Bridge To the 18th Century" is a collection of suggested steps based on 18th century utilitarian values and practices.
Above all, I like Postman's style. He is a direct, eloquent writer, a person whose ideas and insights are clearly spelled out. And despite others' charge that he is a curmudgeon, I find him humorous and open-minded.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Cautioning Us of Improved Means to an Unimproved End 29 July 2001
By Jerald M. Cogswell - Published on
Format: Paperback
In declaring himself an enemy of the twentieth century, Neil Postman grieves that the past century forgot the importance of precise language in public dialogue. The consequences have resulted in the most inhumane and violent period in all history. (Richard Rubinstein's book "The Cunning of History: The Holocaust and the American Future" has already reminded us of the unprecedented scale of atrocity committed in this century. Need I mention the battle of Verdun, Pol Pot, China's Communist revolution, two world wars, the atomic bomb - alas, where shall I stop?) Postman is aware of the eighteenth century's cruelties - child labor, slavery, anonymity of women, but he believes that the great thinkers of the period were almost unique in offering the kind of thought that could make the course of history more humane.
Indeed, he even posits that childhood is not a biological condition, but was an invention of the eighteenth century, for it was the civilization that actually thought that a youthful period of preparation was necessary. Regrettably, he argues, our generation has regressed by eliminating childhood. Does childhood exist if television, the Internet and the media expose the young to the same information that adults receive? In this respect, we are more like a fourteenth century civilization that bypassed the written word and granted full exposure of adult knowledge, sexuality, and activity to anyone who could speak.
Postman cautions that we tend to evaluate technology by the claims of technologists alone, forgetting to ask the ethicist, the poet, the novelist, and the artist for an evaluation. It doesn't occur to most people to question the benefit of a new technology, and who benefits, and who pays.
Of high importance is a return to the written word, for the written word requires an author to forever place his name on an idea, but the stream of information and the interactive media make all the populace instant plebiscites and pose us for an end of democracy, or a democracy that degenerates into a "mobocracy."
His book is not a road map or a menu or an agenda. He does not tell us what to think, but reminds us of the importance of learning how to think analytically and humanely.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Devil's advocate for the tech revolution 26 Dec. 1999
By W. Male - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Postman clarifies the impact that technology (computers and television) has on us to such an extent that I was tempted to toss my computer and TV out the window half way through the book. And while Postman has not personally succumed to the siren of the computer, his head is also not buried too deeply in the sand. If anything, he wants us to transcend the age of technology in the 20th century to a new enlightenment in the 21st century. At stake is the loss of childhood which he says was defined in the 18th century as a result of an earlier technological advancement: movable type.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Postman Delivers! 22 Oct. 2001
By Mark Valentine - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is my third Postman book and I am still enthralled in the reading of his works. Mainly, I believe, because he writes with a particular verve that I find lacking in many of his contemporaries. His discourse covers a wide range of topics, some of them superficially, but all of them intended to support his thesis: children are losing their childhood; and meaning needs to be revived in language, education, narrative, and culture. He is iconoclastic.
Even though it is possible to read his book in a cursory manner, don't fault the easily accessible work as trite. Postman's criticism is erudite, precise and well-articulated.
I hope he doesn't stop writing. His voice needs to continue.
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