Neil Postman was a teacher, a scholar, a journal editor, a general semanticist, a social and cultural critic, a time-binder, a media ecologist, and a public intellectual. Time-binding, which Postman both studied and practiced, refers to humanity’s ability to connect to the past, present, and future via language, something Postman accomplished with 18 books and more than 200 articles. His accessible style helped him reach multiple audiences, and in addition to scholarly work, he published in periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Time, The Washington Post, and Le Monde.
Although Postman developed and taught in New York University’s Media Ecology Program, focusing his attention on America’s evolving media landscape, he also devoted significant time to the education of children. “Children,” explained Postman in The Disappearance of Childhood (1982), “are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Over time, Postman grew increasingly concerned about the condition of that message, as he believed television, “the first curriculum,” and other forms of media were affecting humanity’s ability to think critically and independently. Postman feared that technology was replacing culture (Technopoly, 1993), but he never wrote as if it were a forgone conclusion, and he believed that schools could engender a critical consciousness while preserving America’s cultural heritage (The End of Education, 1995).
His significant works include Television and the Teaching of English (1961); Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969), coauthored with Charles Weingartner; Teaching as a Conserving Activity (1979); Conscientious Objections (1988); and Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (1999).
- Postman, N. (1993). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage.
- Postman, N. (1995). The end of education: Redefining the value of school. New York: Knopf.
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