Saturday, June 4, 2011

Book: The False Promises of Constructivist Theories of Learning

Does this title sound like one of those conservatives who thinks we ought to lecture? It's not. The critique is from ... something more like the far left. Left of Paulo Freire?! Yep. But left is probably the wrong word for it...

The False Promises of Constructivist Theories of Learning: A Global and Ecological Critique, by C.A. Bowers, is part of a series called Complicated Conversation.

Here's a bit from the introduction:

At $27, I'm not sure I can afford it, but Friere has been one of my heroes, and I'm intrigued by this critique. Some of the other books in the series look interesting also. Hmm, I wonder if UC Berkeley's library will have it. [Added on 7-16: As pointed out in the comments, you can read C.A. Bowers shorter articles online at his website; this article [pdf] seems to cover some of the same ground this book does. I just communicated with the author by email, and he's involved with Eco-Justice Press. They've published some books on similar issues; you can get the ebooks for $11.]


  1. Thanks for pointing this one out. You may want to check out some of the online articles on his site, rather than shelling out for the full cost of the book.

    As far as education as colonization, I've been wanting to check out the film Schooling the World (, I'm assuming some of the critique takes off from Illich (

  2. Thanks for pointing to his site. I'll check it out.

    And maybe it's time for me to reread Illich.

  3. good stuff here; thanks for the lead.

    illich rocks but you seem already to know.
    that whole "" thing looks
    pretty cool now that it's come up.
    gatto! paul goodman! a-and...

    yh&os. V.

  4. Interesting points. It should be pointed out though that there is a tragedy of the commons. The enclosures and industrial revolution and advances in health made possible the combined population explosion and increase in wealth. Free exchange, such as it was allowed, did in fact serve as the basis of mutual support and moral reciprocity. I'm reminded of the south park episode where all the hippies are getting together talking about how they want a community where everyone helps each others, and the kids Stan and Marsh say "like a town?" pointing out this mutual assistance is already happening all around them. A post commons social order supported a much larger population in great wealth. This is not to say the our present system is perfect. But much of our present system is the 'progressive' one of licensure and regulation that brought us out crummy schools. By contrast a sudbury schools allows free enterprise for each student (enterprise doesn't have to be for only monetary gain.)

    (For more - see Rothbard The American Economy and the End of Laissez-Faire: 1870 to World War II OR go to the mises institute.)

  5. Owen, what's yh&os mean? I remember that I didn't like Illich as much as I'd hoped to. I think it wasn't down-to-Earth enough.

    I like some of the ideas on preservenet, but they support school vouchers, which pushes more money toward those who are well-off. We need some sort of public school system, controlled by the families who use it, and funded by the whole society, imo.

    Anders, I don't follow this line:
    >But much of our present system is the 'progressive' one of licensure and regulation that brought us out crummy schools.

    Also, the wealth bought at the expense of enclosure of the commons went to a few. I *think* we disagree, though I'm not sure.

  6. the "voucher" thing never fails to amaze me.
    let 'em go *ahead* and abolish government
    schools... *and* quit making the public pay.
    why we-the-people should be made to
    turn tax monies over to for-profits is a mystery.
    it worked pretty well in the "insurance" racket i guess.

    your humble & ob't servant.

  7. Well, where will kids go? Some parents can't afford to pay for their care during the day, whether you call it schooling or not.

    I know you see schooling from just its bad side. I see it as 'contested territory'. Have you read Deborah Meier's book, The Power of Their Ideas, about the elementary school she started in Harlem? It sounds like a great school.


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