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The Flickering Mind
Saving Education from the False Promise of Technology


By Todd Oppenheimer
Random House
Trade Paperback

$15.95 U.S.
(ISBN #: 0-8129-6843-3)
528 pages

Random House

$26.95 U.S.
(ISBN #: 1-4000-6044-3)
512 pages

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Common Questions, Todd's Answers:
Addressing some frequently asked questions.

NPR's Tavis Smiley show
Listen to Todd Oppenheimer's debate on NPR.

Newsweek Web Exclusive: Are Computers Wrecking Schools?
A new and controversial book argues that computers have done far more harm than good to education


Praise for The Flickering Mind:

"Do not, repeat not, let the word 'technology' in the subtitle scare you. Oppenheimer, a veteran investigative journalist, knows how to explain complicated topics clearly. He uses scene-setting and anecdotes regularly, sometimes elevating the writing from clear to compelling."
-- The Seattle Times

"An informative, insightful, and broad presentation of public education's ongoing struggle for survival in competition and in collaboration with all the next new things."
-- The Christian Science Monitor

"Evenhanded, judicious, and observant: a valuable contribution to the literature of education."
-- Kirkus Review

"This is the most important book of its kind since Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities, and it carries the same torch—telling us what's really going on inside the public education system. The Flickering Mind is a powerful work and a must-read for anyone who cares what will be within the minds of the next generation of Americans."
-- Gregg Easterbrook, author of The Progress Paradox

"A splendid book, humane and smart, with the authority that only comes from lots of patient reporting. For those who care about children, this is an important—and impressively sensible—guide to what has gone wrong with schools and how we can put matters right, if parents and educators can get free of inflated promises."
-- William Greider, National Book Award nominee and author of The Soul of Capitalism


Above: cover art by Jamie Keenan
Below: A San Francisco fifth grader shows Oppenheimer the virtues of low-tech learning. Photograph credit: Bart Nagel

[Excerpt from the book]


One fall day, I watched a group of 11th graders in Worcester, Massachusetts, engage in what was billed as an inventive civics project at Worcester's Accelerated Learning Laboratory. The ALL School, as it's commonly called, is the flagship institution of the "Co-nect" program, the only one of the big, national school reform initiatives to organize itself around modern technology. On this particular day, a social studies class was working on reports about the powers of Congress, constructed as Power Point presentations (named after Microsoft's ubiquitous business-presentation product). The reports were nearly finished, and the teacher was feeling pleased with the results. When I asked to see one, she steered me to a young man whose report she felt was in particularly good shape. Sure enough, as the student clicked through the presentation, I was immediately struck by the clean graphics, the strong colors, and the digestible writing. Then, suddenly, he was done. This was the extent of his report. But its content was no deeper or more complex than what one commonly sees in civics papers done elsewhere, with pencil and paper, by seventh and eighth graders. Mystified, I asked the student how he'd used his time. He estimated having spent approximately 17 hours on the project, only seven of which had been devoted to research and writing. The rest went to refining the presentation's graphics.

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