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The Book of Learning and Forgetting
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The Book of Learning and Forgetting

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  220 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
The author eloquently contrasts a false and fabricated "official theory" that learning is work (used to justify the external control of teachers and students through excessive regulation and massive testing) with a correct but officially suppressed "classic view" that learning is a social process that can occur naturally and continually through collaborative activities. Th ...more
Paperback, 133 pages
Published May 1st 1998 by Teachers College Press
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Jun 06, 2010 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, education
I was looking for something for an assignment, looking for something on motivating students who were clearly uninterested in learning, when I found this book. Frank Smith’s book Reading: Second Edition, a book I read about 15 years ago and I have always considered one of the more remarkable books I’ve ever read, has always been a touchstone for me. At the time I read it I was learning how to help adults learn to read. Before I read it I thought that what I needed to learn, if I was going to be a ...more
Esteban del Mal
Jun 14, 2010 Esteban del Mal rated it really liked it
Wythe Marschall
Jul 26, 2010 Wythe Marschall rated it really liked it
I'm giving this book 5 stars only because of the ideas within it; Smith's writing is dull, and his organization not particularly powerful. That said, his morals are unimpeachable. I want to give the guy a hug. More, I want every teacher to read this book.

Smith's argument, after a lifetime of teaching and studying learning: The official, logistical, industrial, capital-driven (my emphasis--he elides Marx) version of teaching results not in learning but in learning-that-learning-sucks. Kids run aw
Christina Crowley
Feb 25, 2017 Christina Crowley rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful concept: let's value and recognize all of the things our students are learning, not just the things we want them to learn. This is fundamental to teaching the whole child and seeing what's unique and precious in each of them.
Jul 25, 2007 Gea rated it really liked it
Frank Smith is the author of many books on education and child development. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and teaches in Canada. Smith defines two visions of learning: the ‘official’ theory (learning is work) and a ‘classic’ view (we learn effortlessly every waking moment of our lives). Smith points out how schools perpetuate and control the official theory of learning by separating learning from living and making learning work; whereas, the classic view, which does not need school, c ...more
THE BOOK OF LEARNING AND FORGETTING is simply written--a quick read--with a profoundly revolutionary message. It should be on the reading list of anyone entering education as a profession, anyone who is or may someday be a parent, anyone who has ever struggled with learning, and anyone who is human.

Hopefully those who, like Frank Smith, are aware of the damage that can be done by the institutional and personal proliferation of a corrupt philosophy of learning will be heard and make a difference
Kathy Sarlog
Mar 06, 2010 Kathy Sarlog rated it it was amazing
What is refreshing about this book is that in addition to pointing out how flawed the school systems are with the emphasis on organized learning, standardized testing, grading and evaluating, drills and memorization, Smith spends some time showing what schools could, and should, be.

I really wish this book, along with some notable others (books by John Holt, John Taylor Gatto and the like), would be read by teachers and school administrators. I like to think some minds would be opened to viewing
Jul 25, 2013 Laurie rated it liked it
Though Smith speaks in extremes, liberally using "always" and "never" in his reasoning, and though I don't agree with several of his bifurcated arguments, I do appreciate the following claims:

3 steps to change: understanding, effort, and honesty

Learning takes place as a process of collaboration

Hmmmm..."the question should never be 'are the students learning?' but always 'what are the students learning?' The answer is found not by testing the students but by looking at what they are doing and h
Ryan Seamons
Jun 11, 2016 Ryan Seamons rated it really liked it
Shelves: learning
Fantastic read for those interested in learning theory.

Love the ideas about the classical method (self-driven learning) and the official method (forced learning). Tons of great nuggets about the power and need for learners to own their learning. I also liked the points around learning not just being about knowledge, but about doing. What can I do because of what I learn? Memorization is crap. Yes, it's a part, but a much smaller part than the official method makes it out to be.

Must read for any
Dec 17, 2015 Courtney rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
I read this in a Philosophy of Education class and while I share Smith's primary thesis (that the classic view of learning- that it is easy and natural- has been subverted in favor of the official view of learning -that it is hard, requires tests, and if you don't learn it's because you're lazy), I could not get over his hatred of psychology. It is informative and provides a solid inquiry into our view of teaching as educators, but my distance from Smith's approach (especially his sections on ps ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Gregg rated it it was amazing
This book contrasts classic vs. "official" views of learning. The classic view says that learning is effortless and boundless, while the "official" view says that it is hard work and easily forgotten; growth vs. memorization; a social activity vs. an intellectual activity; independent of rewards and punishments vs. dependent on rewards and punishments; vicarious vs. individualistic; unpremeditated vs. intentional. I continue to refer back to Smith's book as it gives me tremendous hope within our ...more
Dec 11, 2008 Jmswtsn rated it it was amazing
Take back my old review - one of the best books about learning I've read. The main points about learning and forgetting inform a big part of my current thinking about education, and resonate with every recent high school grad that I talk to. Looking back, this is one of the seminal books that has changed my awareness about education, and has helped drive me to want to learn more about the learning process.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been in a classroom at any time in their li
Sep 25, 2010 Susan rated it it was amazing
I've wanted to read this book for years and am glad I finally did. Smith writes on how we learn and how the notion that learning is work and hard leads to memorization and forgetting. He states that learning is easy and comes from "the company we keep." He advocates worrying less about what children are learning and more on what they're doing. It's through doing that they learn. His observations support what I experience with my own kids.
Apr 12, 2013 Rachel rated it it was ok
I feel a love-hate thing going for the way this guy presents ideas. I am all for the ideal of effortless learning and making learning fun. But his demonization of technology and science really annoys me. I agree that psychological testing heavily influenced educational theory--but I don't think that means we need to disregard everything from psychology.

I like the idea of effortless, student-driven learning, but it would have been nice to see some evidence, even anecdotal.
Aug 25, 2009 Laura rated it liked it
The premise is that we learn, and quickly, from those we admire. My favorite line from this book is something to the effect of: "You never hear people complain that their child is a slow learner when they're picking up bad habits from their friends." I thought I remembered it being more astute the first time I read it, though, so I was slightly disappointed. Perhaps I'd simply internalized the message.
Sep 15, 2007 Zoe rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I found this to be a really compelling argument for returning to a classical view of education from today's test-oriented focus, not that I needed any convincing. Smith makes strong points based on historical and scientific research that make a lot of sense. I've been inspired each time I return to this one.
Jan 08, 2015 Lindsay rated it really liked it
This book was a reading assignment for one of my classes and I found it really interesting. I have always felt that I have a different teaching philosophy than the 'norm' and I really liked what this book had to say and I agreed with most of it. Although, I am still curious as to how to make some of these changes to the current teaching methods.
Jul 02, 2010 Samantha rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to anyone who is going into teaching or involved in the profession. My professor Terry Jo suggested it to us, for which I am grateful. The book has a lot of really good insights and makes a lot of sense from my experience as a student and the time I've spent teaching so far. It is a short book, quickly read and makes a LOT of sense.
Marcella Johnson
Aug 31, 2010 Marcella Johnson rated it liked it
Very interesting book, especially for educators. It would also be a good book for parents of school aged children to read. It focuses on how and why today's common form of teaching does not promote long-term retention.
Dec 24, 2008 Linda is currently reading it
there is natural (classical) learning that we all do and there is the formal learning which is really memorization which involves forgetting. The former type of learning involves very little forgetting as it is mostly permanent.
Sep 18, 2016 Riley rated it it was ok
I liked the ideas that were discussed in the book, but I found Smith's writing to be very dull. On multiple occasions I almost fell asleep while writing it.
Jul 14, 2010 Angela rated it it was amazing
Excellent and insightful.
Jul 30, 2008 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. Anyone who has ever tried to learn or help someone else learn anything should read it. A great research-based resource for why unschooling approaches work so well.
Jul 08, 2014 krystal rated it it was ok
Although he makes fair points and provides adequate research, it is impossible to read as fact. He uses such unnecessary hyperbolic language to shove his argument down readers throats.
Nojood Alsudairi
Dec 09, 2007 Nojood Alsudairi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
One of the books I purchased during the last year of my studies. It is Frank Smith, say nothing.
Jan 23, 2014 Mariana rated it it was amazing
mind blowing
Joel Baxley
Jun 13, 2011 Joel Baxley rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone with an interest in education. Smith does a good job of setting some of the historical basis for present conflict and confusion. It's a pretty short book.
Sep 10, 2013 John rated it liked it
Surpassed my expectations. Very interesting to think about this from a parenting angle.
Feb 10, 2013 Chriscb rated it it was amazing
My favorite book about learning, bar none.
Wesley Fryer
May 09, 2010 Wesley Fryer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of the best books on learning, teaching and education I've ever read. Highly recommended!
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Frank Smith is a contemporary psycholinguist recognized for his contributions in linguistics and cognitive psychology, both nationally and internationally, over the past 35 years. He is regarded as an essential contributor to research on the nature of the reading process together with researchers such as George Armitage Miller, Kenneth S. Goodman (see Ken Goodman), Paul A. Kolers, Jane W. Torrey, ...more
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