Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age

Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age

Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age

Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age

Synopsis

In this book, Carl Bereiter--a distinguished and well-known cognitive, educational psychologist--presents what he calls "a new way of thinking about knowledge and the mind." He argues that in today's Knowledge Age, education's conceptual tools are inadequate to address the pressing educational challenges and opportunities of the times. Two things are required: first, to replace the mind-as-container metaphor with one that envisions a mind capable of sustaining knowledgeable, intelligent behavior without actually containing stored beliefs; second, to recognize a fundamental difference between knowledge building and learning--both of which are essential parts of education for the knowledge age. Connectionism in cognitive science addresses the first need; certain developments in post-positivist epistemology address the second. The author explores both the theoretical bases and the practical educational implications of this radical change in viewpoint.

The book draws on current new ways of thinking about knowledge and mind, including information processing, cognitive psychology, situated cognition, constructivism, social constructivism, and connectionism, but does not adhere strictly to any "camp." Above all, the author is concerned with developing a way of thinking about the mind that can usher education into the knowledge age. This book is intended as a starting point.

Excerpt

Here we are in the Information Age, relying on a theory of mind that is older than the wheel. Every other folk theory—folk physics, folk biology, folk economics—has had to yield to more powerful theories, better equipped to address the problems of an adventurous civilization. According to one story, this has also happened with theory of mind. Something called "cognitive science" arose in the 1950s and developed rapidly. Its most conspicuous manifestations have been in artificial intelligence and robotics, but it has had a significant and sometimes revolutionary effect on all the behavioral sciences. Although it may be true that most of the world's business is still conducted according to folk theories of mind, this may be only a matter of cultural lag, which will be overcome as cognitive science takes hold.

The trouble with this story is that for most purposes the effect of cognitive science has not been to replace folk theory but to reinstate it, after its exile by behaviorism. I do not mean to discount the accomplishments of cognitive scientists in expert systems, language comprehension, and the like. But the cognitive science that produced these accomplishments has been rooted in the same basic conception of the mind that has been with us at least since Plato's time, and that children in the Western world pick up spontaneously by the age of 6. It is this folk conception, along with its formalizations in cognitive theories, that has recently started to be challenged.

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