Although some things about this book are a little dated (I'm looking at you, "intellectual strategies for nuclear-space-age survival") and it sometimes fall into the trap of praising its solution as perhaps too revolutionary or seems to frame its methods as the only thing that can change how things are, the bulk of this book is essentially a bunch of interesting ideias on education based on a lot of works and thinkers cited through it. Its also a little depressing to see that most if not all the problems mentioned about the educational system in this book are still present today, 50 years later. However, I don't agree with every ideia and I particularly believe (and this book seem to oppose that) that textbooks are really valuable, specially for self-education and if you know how to read them - my opinion is that the right way to do so depends on the subjetct. Things I learned from this book: - Learning is not linear, it may be a process of going two steps to the front and one step back, but at the same time learning grows exponentially - People learn by doing things. After learning a concept try to put it in practice. You learn what you do. (This idea also echoed with something I have been thinking about, which is you only learn math by going through exercises with pen and paper. We learn with our bodies) - Naming things can disencourage us from thinking about them critically. Definitions and processes, on contrast, are open to reformulation. - Maybe the way you think is more important than what you think - State a problem, observe it enough and gather data that can lead to pattern recognition and generalizations, figure hypothesis relevant to its solution, test them and generalize based on these observations - One of the most valuable abilities is the ability to make good questions - Learning new things is as much about unlearning old things, if not more, than really learning new things - and this 'unlearning' only happens with we are frustrated with our perceptions when we try to interact with the world, so we may find new ones - Our understanding about subjects depends on the language we use for them, and in fact subjects themselves are languages, ways of speaking about the world - Our perceptions don't just come from the outside to the inside, but we project then on the world at all times. We only see what comes from us - The world is better viewed as an open system, where there isn't only 'yes' or 'no' as answers - This book is very fond of the metaphor of learning as meaning-making, which implies an active position - Here I cite some principles the book says should guide the study of any question, problem or system (I don't fully agree with the one about levels of abstraction): "- Questions are instruments of perception. - The nature of a question (its form and assumptions) determines the nature of its answer. - Definitions and metaphors are instruments for thinking and have no authority beyond the context in which they are used. - Observing is a function of the symbol systems the observer has available to him. The more limited the symbol systems, in number and kind, the less one is able to see. - A symbol system is in effect, a point of view. The more ways of talking one is capable of, the more choices one can make and solution one can invent. - Meaning is in people. Without people there are no meanings. - The more meanings one has in one's experience, the more new meanings one can generate or acquire. - The level of abstraction at which one uses language in any context is an index of the extent to which one is in touch with reality. The higher the level, the less is the contact with reality. - Facts are statements about the world as perceived by human beings. They are, therefore, as tentative as all human judgments. - The rules for judging the reliability and value of human perception are, themselves, language systems and have applicability only within a given context. " - Saying something exist or not doesn't change its existence, only change your ability to perceive it - "About the only wholesome grounds on which mass testing can be justified is that it provides the conditions for about the only creative intellectual activity available to students - cheating. It is quite probable that the most original problem solving activity students engage in school is related to the invention of systems for beating the system. We'd be willing to accept testing if it were intended to produce this kind of creativity." - For much part of history education was oral, not written. Texts were meant to be heard rather than read - Much of the book discusses the way people should be educated about all kind of media and how it operates. Seeing the constraints of different mediums and how they work allow us to free ourselves from them, and not doing so let the medium control us. - There is a nice anedocte about a teacher who takes a black box to the class and says inside it there is a powerfull computer that can answer any question, and they ask their students which question would they ask the computer. The students make some questions, and the teacher says they wouldn't waste the computer power without trying to answer those questions themselves, so the teacher ask the students questions related to that one and they start a debate in order to try to answer the questions. It turns out the computer story was all a ruse to make the student start asking interesting questions. Then: "Here is what happened during a three-week period of the black attaché case game. Of course, the students quickly realized that there was no miraculous computer in the case. They were only slightly disappointed. (They did insist, for some reason, that the black case be physically present at every session.)" - There is another anedocte about a teacher who ask their class to answer some questions, in a mixed order and in the most detailed and non-superficial and non-generic way they can. The answer to all or most of them are very specific sensations - like "what does it feel to have an ice cube inside your shirt" - this question wasn't present, but you get the picture and it was the best example I could think right now. Then, the teacher asked one of the students to read their answers. After that, the teacher asked what the answers looked like and the students said it looked like a poem. The teacher asked if they were asked to write a poem, would they? - and the students said they wouldn't like, but they liked having written the answers. After that the teacher asked why it seemed like a coherent whole (a poem) if it was a lisst of separate answers and they pondered about personality and the integration and identity of a person's outcome. - These two anedoctes are telling about the way people work: we may do something, and do it in a very good way, sometimes only if we are misguidedly asked to do something else. It reminds me of a math teacher I had that used to ask to a random student - would you like to give me a number to test this function? - The answers were always negative. Then this teacher would say: ok, but if you would like to, what number would you choose? Sometimes, for creative purpose, this method of "self-deceit" is something I try to use on myself.