TOPIC 1: Short history of ideas about learning and education. Readings: First two chapters of The Unfinished Revolution: society, learning, compromise and paradox by Terry Ryan and John Abbott.

Questions to think about What did scientists and philosopher’s mean when they spoke about learning? Was there a consensus? How important is “science” in determining what happens in education? What’s the difference between scientific knowledge and a scientific methodology? Who controls learning? Who controls education? What has traditionally been the purpose of education? How have people traditionally learned? What role has economics and politics played in education?

TOPIC 2: Nature or Nurture: what does science have to say about learning and brain development at the close of the 20th century?

Section 1

Readings 1) Henry Plotkin. Evolution in Mind. (ch. 2) (London: Penguin Press), 1997. 2) Sharon Begley, “Your Child’s Brain.” Newsweek (February 19,1996). 3) J. Madeleine Nash, “Fertile Minds.” Time. (February 3, 1997). 4) Ronald Kotulak. “Learning How to Use the Brain.” (June 13, 1996). 5) Marian Diamond and Janet Hopson. Magic Trees of the Mind (ch.1). (New York: A Dutton Book), 1998. Suggested Reading: Steven Rose. “Brains, Minds and the World,” From Brains to Consciousness? Essays on the New Sciences of the Mind. (London: The Penguin Press), 1998.

Section 2

1) Meredith F. Small. Our Babies, Ourselves (ch. 1). (New York: Anchor Books), 1998. 2) Michael Gazzaniga. The Mind’s Past (ch. 2). (Berkeley: The University of California Press), 1998. 3) Judith Rich Harris. The Nurture Assumption (preface by Pinker). (New York: The Free Press), 1998. 4) John T. Bruer. The Myth of the First Three Years (chs. 1-2). (New York: The Free Press), 1999. Suggested Reading: Michael Gazzaniga. “What Are Brains For?” Robert Solso (ed.). Mind and Brain Sciences in the 21st Century. (Cambridge: The MIT Press), 1997.

Questions to think about How much influence, according to the various authors, does nurture (parents, peers, schools, etc.) have on young people? Is there a consensus answer to this question? How “plastic,” or malleable is the brain? Does evolution play a role in determining who we are as people? Where do “windows of opportunity” in the brain come from? Does evolution constrain or empower the human species?

TOPIC 3: Predispositions: why do humans talk and are we predisposed to be friendly and successful in groups?

Section 1

Readings 1) Fritjof Capra. The Web of Life (pp.257-263). (New York: Doubleday), 1996. 2) Newsweek. “The Language Explosion.” Newsweek Special Issue 1996. 3) Ann B. Barnet, M.D., and Richard J. Barnet. The Youngest Minds (ch. 2). (New York: Simon & Schuster), 1998. 4) Benedicte de Boysson-Bardies. How Language Comes to Children (intro. & ch. 1). (Cambridge: The MIT Press), 1999. Suggested Reading: Karin Stromswold. “The Cognitive and Neural Bases of Language Acquisition.” Michael Gazzaniga (ed.). The Cognitive Neurosciences. (Cambridge: The MIT Press), 1995.

Section 2

Readings 1) Eliot Sober & David Sloan Wilson. Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Intro.). (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 1998. 2) Matt Ridley. The Origins of Virtue (Prologue & Ch. 13). (London: Viking), 1996. 3) William F. Allman. The Stone Age Present (chs. 2-3). (New York: Simon & Schuster), 1995. 4) Ernst Mayr. This Is Biology (ch.12). (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), 1997. Suggested Readings: 1) Nigel Nicholson. “How Hardwired is Human Behavior?” The Harvard Business Review. (July-August 1998).

TOPIC 4: Adolescence: a problem or an opportunity lost?

Readings 1) Cheryl Wetzstein. “Adults regard U.S. Teens as lazy, spoiled, study finds.” The Washington Times. (May 3, 1999). 2) Research Reports. “The Ambitious Generation. The Wilson Quarterly. (Spring 1999). 3) McLean Hospital. “Physical Changes in the Adolescent Brains May Account for Turbulent Teen Years, McLean Hospital study reveals.” (June 11, 1998). 4) Patricia Hersch. A Tribe Apart (intro.). (New York: Fawcett Columbine), 1998. 5) Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Reed Larson. Being Adolescent (intro., chs 1-2). (New York: Basic Books), 1984.

TOPIC 5: Motivation: it’s about money or we do it for love?

Readings 1) Edward L. Deci. Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation (ch. 1-2). (London: Penguin Books), 1995. 2) Beth A. Hennessey and Teresa M. Amabile. “The Conditions of Creativity.” Robert Sternberg (ed.). The Nature of Creativity. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 1988. 3) Geoffrey Colvin. “What Money Makes You Do.” Fortune. (August 17, 1998). 4) Linda Perlstein. “The Sweet Rewards of Learning.”The Washington Post. (November 14, 1999). 5) Joseph Gauld. “Why American Education is Failing.”Education Week. (April 23, 1997). 6) Ken Robinson. “Our Future Must Be Creative.” The Times of London. (July 16, 1999). Suggested Reading: Teresa Amabile. “How to Kill Creativity.” Harvard Business Review. (September-October 1998).