To Open Minds

To Open Minds

To Open Minds

To Open Minds


In this unique attempt to address the dilemma in contemporary education, the noted cognitive scientist weaves the lessons garnered from three vantage points-his own traditional education as an American child, his years of research on creativity at Harvard, and what he saw in modern Chinese classrooms-into a program for creativity that draws the best of both modes, traditional and progressive.


All books are written to answer a need but only a few are written out of compulsion. I can vividly remember the events that compelled me to write To Open Minds. During the final month of my fourth visit to China, I found myself overcome with a welter of impressions, feelings, questions, conclusions. Some of my most entrenched beliefs about education and human development had been challenged by my observations in Chinese classrooms; and to exacerbate this professional dislocation, my months in China had evoked deep, troubling, and long-forgotten themes from my own childhood.

To deal with this growing "culture shock" I began to make notes, and the notes grew to many pages. I became increasingly agitated, finally realizing that I could not deal with my "state" unless I assembled all my ideas into a single coherent form. Upon my return to the United States, I cleared my desk, withdrew from the outside world, and, in a frenzy more characteristic of Georges Simenon than a sober psychologist, wrote the first draft of To Open Minds in less than a fortnight. Unlike Simenon, I did revise for a year, and I trust that the book is better for its several reworkings.

By far the most personal of my books, To Open Minds has elicited the widest range of responses from the broadest gamut of persons. Readers have been interested in, attracted to, and repelled by different portions of my narrative; immigrant children and individuals from towns such as Scranton, Pennsylvania, have focused on the portrait of my childhood; psychologists, educators, neurologists, and artists have concentrated on the several strands of my professional training; China-lovers have shared my enthusiasm for the country, its inhabitants, and the art of its children; China-bashers have concentrated on the authoritarian means used in training; China experts have offered their interpretations of certain incidents--for example, the opening episode, in which Chinese adults attempt to guide my son Benjamin's hand into the hotel's key slot.

Some have proposed that I exaggerate the Chinese emphasis on performances in daily life, while others opined that I failed to appre-

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