Education and Psychology: Plato, Piaget, and Scientific Psychology

Brief biography of the book:

I began this book with the intention of discussing a greater variety of developmental theories that seemed to me relevant to education than are discussed in typical ed. psych. textbooks on the topic. In particular I wanted to bring out the continuing worthwhileness of considering epistemological theories, whose central belief was that the mind was made up primarily of the knowledge that it learned. "Development" in this view was largely driven by the amount and kind of knowledge that a person learned. Thus, such a theory would explain the acquisition of theoretic abstract thinking in mid/late teens, not in terms of some putative psychological development, but in terms of the way in which areas of knowledge, when accumulated to a particular degree, generated such abstractions. Such theories challenge our common assumption that there is within us something that "develops" of its own accord. I wanted to make clear one of the grounds on which it is reasonable to conlude, in Jerry Fodor's words, that "Deep down, I'm inclined to doubt that there is such a thing as cognitive development in the sense that developmental cognitive psychologists have in mind."

But I rambled and became interested in the problems with Piaget's account of development, and particularly the wide influence the theory had attained in education--which seemed to me difficult to support, given the insecurity of the theory and the insecurity of many of the implications drawn to education. That then led me to consider the degree to which psychological theories in general were both insecure and insecure anchors for the educational implications commonly infered from them.

So the book became a bit of a misch-masch, and devevloped a polemical edge that grew as I read more and more descriptions of educational practices supposedly based on psychological theories. I felt as though I was watching an emperor in pretty skimpy scientific clothing parading around a little pompously.

The reviews of the book surprised me. Some were enthusiastic in their support, for what seemed to me commonly bad reasons, and others were furiously against, for what seemed to me commonly bad reasons. I felt as though I had drawn a Rorschach blot, and was interested in the interpretations. I can recall hardly any reviews that seemed to have grasped the argument. But, I guess, I'm biased.

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