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The Aims of Education and Other Essays Paperback – 1 Jan 1967

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The Aims of Education and Other Essays + Adventures of Ideas + Modes of Thought
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Free Press Pbk. Ed edition (1 Jan 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029351804
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029351802
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.1 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Culture is activity of thought, and receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By PeterH on 28 Sep 2012
Format: Paperback
This is an amazingly perceptive book about the true nature of education and should be on the reading list of all would-be educators. Although written so many years ago, it contains timeless wisdom about how we learn and how best to teach. Although some of the ideas (no exams?) seem outrageously far-fetched today, they are a useful counter-balance to the oppressively utilitarian world of league-tables and grade-inflation. Among many other pearls it contains the best description of the different stages of learning one goes through to master a subject that I have ever read. This book inspired me as a student at the Cambridge Institute of Education in 1967 and still inspires me after nearly 46 years as teacher, head and school inspector. It's one of many reasons why I am still teaching and still loving it (teaching and this book! at 67. Sad that it seems so expensive now - if you can find it in a second-hand book shop, snap it up!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Extremely Timely Teaching 10 Mar 2001
By Mark Valentine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Although most of these essay were written over eight decades ago, I found them to be extremely timely, especially the title essay. Whitehead shoots straight. He begins by stating that most teachers transmit "inert" ideas in their practice--they teach material that has to practicable bearing on providing any meaningful help to students.
He identifies three different stages or rhythms in educational methodology that happen in tandem and in rotation (I visualize a geocentric universe filled with epicycles of rotating moons and planets to illustrate the layers and rings of motion in teaching). He bases these stages on Hegel's Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis, but he adapts them to the classroom and human learning. He calls these rhythms Romance, Precision, and Generalization. In Romance, the teacher needs to awake the sense of wonder and curiosity in a student's mind. This will provide the impetus to pursue the learning to the next stage: Precision. In the second stage, the student studies by drill and repetition the formulae, rules, and grammars that build upon a thorough knowledge of a filed. In the third stage, Whitehead declares that the student needs to move into a realm of Generaliztion. In this rhythm, the student makes connections, applications, and full, mature usage of the material and ideas.
I wish more teachers and teachers interested in developing their pedagogical methodolgy would take the time to read this short masterful book.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Changed my life at age 17 -- Thank you, thank you! 31 Aug 2004
By Mehetabelle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The university that accepted me into its six-year medicine program required that I read this (and other) book(s) during the summer before entering their program.

It changed my life! It helped me to think about what I wanted to get out of formal education, how I wanted to develop my own mind through the rest of my life, and how to choose education that serves my objectives. This book made me a more knowledegeable consumer and user of education.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Powerful insights into the nature of learning 9 Nov 2006
By Bob Norris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Whitehead's essays are timeless. For the reader who instinctively feels that learning must be meaningful to be of value, Whitehead is a must read. This book is well suited to curriculum designers and/or instructors who feel strongly about including experiential activities. Whitehead's insights would be especially useful for decision-makers/sponsors of learning who must demonstrate a positive return on their investment. The first-time reader will have to overcome a sense of frustration that Whitehead's keen observations are as applicable today as when they were written nearly seventy years ago.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A well remembered book 28 Jun 2013
By Barrie Bracken - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alfred North Whitehead has been a favorite author since I firest read this book as a college sophomore in 1958. It criticizes the British educational system but it is just as appropriate on our own. I have recommended this to educated parents. If you read only the first paragraph of the first page you will gain enough wisdom to make the purchase of the book worthwhile. Buy it, read it, pass it on or save it for future readings. Over the past 55 years I have enjoyed the book four times. If possible it would get 8 stars from me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Anyone who cares about education should read these essays 7 Feb 2013
By Jordan Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a great collection of essays. Whitehead explains in the title essay what we should try to accomplish with education, and in the other essays talks about how to do this. We want to have a powerful and active mind that can connect ideas and solve problems. We have to have a large stock of knowledge to work with, but knowing a large number of facts isn't the proper goal of education. By analogy, we need to know a language to be able to write and thus we need to know many words, but the goal of writing is not to have a large vocabulary. Also, education should enchant people with the power of ideas and make them interested in learning; Whitehead himself says that he would rather have students graduate who enjoy reading literature rather than students who have dissected it and associate it with boredom, because the main use of literature is for exercising the imagination. It's better to be able to get a vivid picture in your head from reading than to list themes that occur in a book.

In the title essay Whitehead says that the first thing do with a scientific idea is to prove its worth, because why would someone care to follow the proof of a theorem whose statement they don't understand or whose significance they don't see. I'm specially interested in mathematics education, and Whitehead argues that we can radically reorganize our mathematics curriculum. Why do we spend time teaching the solution of quadratic equations? We are given that a number satisfies a quadratic equation, and this is almost enough information uniquely to nail the number down. But there are certainly many other areas in mathematics where the same game can be played of seeing how uniquely we can determine something from some information. One doesn't need to know the quadratic formula to be able to talk about derivatives or even simple differential equations, and we shouldn't assume that we have to follow the traditional order of the mathematics curriculum. In the essay on mathematics curriculum, Whitehead says that one of the main goals of mathematics in a liberal education is to train students how to handle abstract ideas. There are many topics in higher mathematics that could do this and that would not require that the student first have to learn the cross product or the fundamental theorem of calculus, and that would give the students the feeling that they were in contact with big ideas in a way that finding the derivative of a rational function or finding slant asymptotes fails to do.

The two other important ideas in this book that I want to mention are that we will never have enough time to learn even the most important parts of the most important topics (and thus we have to develop good patterns of thought rather than aim to know a lot, since we can never know enough to feel complete), and that there are three stages to learning: initial contact with an idea (romance), learning the right techniques for handling an idea (precision), and then having mastery of the idea (generalization), and that it would be better for students not to be in the same stage for all their subjects. For example, when a student is formally learning grammar they could be introduced to ideas of science without demanding they remember lists of technical terms, and then later when they begin their precise study of science they could be in the romantic stage of, say, history.
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