Neil Postman : biography
Neil Postman (March 8, 1931 – October 5, 2003) was an American author, media theorist and cultural critic, who is best known by the general public for his 1985 book about television, Amusing Ourselves to Death. For more than forty years, he was associated with New York University. Postman was a humanist, who believed that "new technology can never substitute for human values.", though with a much stronger preference for faith and religious belief as evidenced by his book "Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology".
Postman was born and spent most of his life in New York City. In 1953, he graduated from State University of New York at Fredonia where he played basketball. He received a master's degree in 1955 and an Ed.D in 1958, both from the Teachers College, Columbia University, and started teaching at New York University (NYU) in 1959.
In 1971, he founded a graduate program in media ecology at the Steinhardt School of Education originally known as SEHNAP, School of Education, Health, Nursing, and Arts Professions, of NYU. In 1993 he was appointed a University Professor, the only one in the School of Education, and was chairman of the Department of Culture and Communication until 2002. Among his students were authors Paul Levinson, Joshua Meyrowitz, Jay Rosen, Lance Strate, and Dennis Smith.
He died of lung cancer in Flushing, Queens on October 5, 2003.
In 1969 and 1970 Postman collaborated with New Rochelle educator Alan Shapiro on the development of a model school based on the principles expressed in Teaching as a Subversive Activity. The result was the "Program for Inquiry, Involvement, and Independent Study" within New Rochelle High School.http://www.joshkarpf.com/3i/proposal1970.html This "open school" experiment survived for 15 years. In subsequent years many programs following these principles were developed in American high schools, current survivors include the Village School in Great Neck, New York.
In a television interview conducted in 1995 on the MacNeil/Lehrer Hour Postman spoke about his opposition to the use of personal computers in schools. He felt that school was a place to learn together as a cohesive group and that it should not be used for individualized learning. Postman also worried that the personalized computer was going to take away from individuals socializing as citizens and human beings.From interview from PBS on MacNeil/Lehrer Hour (1995).
As an education theorist and writer, Postman is closely associated with other critics and commentators including John Holt, Ivan Illich, Paul Goodman, George Dennison, Jonathan Kozol, Herbert Kohl, James Herndon, Charles E. Silberman, John Taylor Gatto, and others.
Postman wrote 18 books and more than 200 magazine and newspaper articles for such periodicals as The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Time Magazine, The Saturday Review, The Harvard Education Review, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Stern, and Le Monde. He was the editor of the quarterly journal ETC: A Review of General Semantics from 1976 to 1986. He was also on the editorial board of The Nation. Despite his oft-quoted concerns about television, computers and the role of technology in society, Postman used not only books, but also the medium of television to advance his ideas. He sat for numerous television interviews, and in 1976 taught a course for NYU credit on CBS-TV's Sunrise Semester called "Communication: the Invisible Environment".
Amusing Ourselves to Death
Postman's best known book is Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), a historical narrative which warns of a decline in the ability of our mass communications media to share serious ideas. Since television images replace the written word, Postman argues that television confounds serious issues by demeaning and undermining political discourse and by turning real, complex issues into superficial images, less about ideas and thoughts and more about entertainment. He also argues that television is not an effective way of providing education, as it provides only top-down information transfer, rather than the interaction that he believes is necessary to maximize learning. He refers to the relationship between information and human response as the Information-action ratio.
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