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The Curiosity of School: Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment
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The Curiosity of School: Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  79 ratings  ·  21 reviews
It’s one thing we all have in common. We’ve all been to school. But as Zander Sherman shows in this fascinating, often shocking account of institutionalized education, sending your kids off to school was not always normal. In fact, school is a very recent invention. Taking the reader back to 19th-century Prussia, where generals, worried about soldiers’ troubling individual ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Viking Canada
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3.81  · 
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 ·  79 ratings  ·  21 reviews

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Ben Babcock
I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. And now I am. This year has been one of reshaping and redefining my identity—I’m no longer preparing to be a teacher, because I am one. Suddenly I’m frequenting staff rooms, going to meetings, filling out reports, and enforcing rules. I’m plugged into this system that is much larger than I am; it’s a sprawling behemoth of cogs, levers, and twisted chains of cause and effect that has sunk its roots deep into society. I love being a teac ...more
Oct 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's funny that when I borrowed this book from my school's library, the employee who saw my book choice just said "School?" as if it was the most boring subject in the world to actually read about.

As it turns out, school has quite the strange history, and it really began with Prussia in the 1800's, originally used as a means of training soldiers. The idea was to strip students of their individuality and turn them into obedient citizens who would later become soldiers, and then workers when there

Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting book about the advent of the Prussian System of public education in North America.

"Perhaps that’s because, for almost two hundred years, the Prussian system has engineered students to be things, not people. At the hands of churches, armies, governments, and corporations, school has sought to turn it students into priests, soldiers, citizens, and workers. With each reformer, and each reform, there has always been an agenda, always a purpose, a point, a motive. No matter the organiz
Samantha Clysdale
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to work with children in a school setting.
Oct 09, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm left with an unsettling feeling. In Canada the push towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in school is driven by companies who need employees in these areas. This means that emphasis is put on success in these areas. (Above creativity, and love of learning of course).

And now I feel a little jaded - are eBooks the blending of Technology and literacy? Is it merely a side effect of this emphasis on STEM? Does all literacy now have to incorporate some aspect of STEM t
H Wesselius
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Many years ago at my first student teaching placement at a fairly upper middle class school, I marveled at the way the children obediently lined up, how complaint they were and that it was now my job to ensure that this happened. My new occupation -- turning youth into useful middle class (or working class) drones. I often refer to my profession as 1/3 teaching, 1/3 babysitting and 1/3 prison guard. In looking at the modern history of school, Sherman has confirmed my suspicions.

An interesting a
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
The prevailing feeling I had while reading this provocative, wonderful, and somewhat terrifying (unedited manuscript) book was, "But my children have already completed high school! Have I done them a great disservice by trusting public education in Canada?"
Thank you, thank you Mr Sherman for this enlightening look at what government, military, and corporate interests have put into motion and continue to this day. Without this comprehensive background information, we would not know how fundament
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I’ve just finished reading Sherman’s The Curiosity of School, and I must give credit where credit is due. Not only is his book provocative and educational, but it imparted upon me an overwhelming sense of horror. If I ever have children, I’m either going to home school them, or pack my bags and move to Finland.

I STRONGLY recommend this book to anyone working in the field education, especially teachers, but also, this should be a must-read for everyone; we need to properly understand what has and
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading the history of education. There were some parts that were slower to get through but overall a good read.
Joy Dube
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed the very readable historical review of education in the Western World, and the update on American education in particular. Loved the contrast with the Finnish model of education -- something that is in direct contrast to our capitalist and market-driven agenda for education which is very important for understanding where we are heading.... I have always advocated for the teaching of Latin as I found it the key to unlocking English, French and Spanish, and made dictionary use almost redun ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Originally posted on my blog Guiltless Reading

Let me say right off that I didn't finish the book (I reached page 321 out of 352 - or approximately 91% according to Goodreads - which is 30 pages shy of completing it). While I didn't finish it, I do intend to, but for some reason I broke my momentum with this and it's a little difficult to get my head into the game again.

You can tell right away by the many stickies that I found this book rather fascinating. It is an extremely ambitious book, cover
Lianne Burwell
Jul 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, library
The Curiosity of Schools is a history for the evolution of schooling over (mostly) modern history. It lightly touches on earlier schooling, mainly be the church, but really starts with Prussia after Napoleon conquered the country, and the start of modern institutionalized schooling.

In Prussia, the goal was to essentially turn students into secret soldiers so that when the time came, they were instrumental in stopping Napoleon. Countries around the world started immitating their method, and tweak
Mar 15, 2013 rated it did not like it
This is without a doubt the worst book I have read in many years. As a longtime fan of Sir Ken Robinson and his argument that "school" as an institution crushes creativity and curiosity (, I was very much looking forward to reading The Curiosity of School. I was profoundly disappointed.

Perhaps everyone SHOULD read this book, if only to consider how important editors are. The book is astonishingly poorly written, structured, and "edited"--although I doubt
My thanks to the Author, Publisher, and Goodreads for selecting me to read and review this free promotional Book.

A fascinating read. I highly recommend this for people who wonder how our modern school system was developed and where it still may be going.

The History of Public Schools & Education should be taught in Grade School instead of the usual completely uninteresting subjects (which seems to be the norm) and this book used as a Primer.

Kudos to Finland with the best Educational system o
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: teachers
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in education reform. It provides insight into the current model of schooling, its original purpose and possible alternatives, or what we believe are alternatives. It was easy to read, unlike some research based texts, and had me thinking about what I believe education's purpose is. It is a must read for teachers, school board members and government policy makers. Understanding how the modern education system developed, and the disconnect th ...more
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Curiosity of School is informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and a great pleasure to read. On the back it says, "This isn't a lecture, it's a conversation," and it really is. It flows easily, and has inspired a lot of further conversation, which looks like it will keep going for a long time.

Zander Sherman, if you're reading this, I want to thank you for the conversation. I enjoyed it immensely.
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Sherman has obviously spent a lot of time researching this book, and as a result it is very informative. I liked the depth of his study, but at the same time, I found it hard to plow through some of his chapters.. I particularly enjoyed the section on Finland,and their success. I recommend this read to any educator who finds themselves wondering if there is a better way to educate, and really anyone else who has an interest in the topic of school.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Interesting history of the school system.

I appreciate the fact that the author was partly home schooled and had some experience in standard institutions.

I also like the fact that he presented the material in a fairly straightforward manner - he was neither apologetic nor critical of the different systems overall.

Interesting read.
Ron S
Jun 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
The history of education is far more peculiar than one might imagine. Zander Sherman manages to pack a lot of weirdness into 300 pages, touching on everything from 19th century Prussia to suicides by test takers in China to the controversial background of the SAT. A hugely entertaining, albeit troubling, read.
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education

Like Freakonomics meets Horace Mann. Great read. The Prussians started it all!
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Zander Sherman was homeschooled until the age of thirteen, has worked as a freelance writer, and currently lives north of Toronto. The Curiosity of School is his debut work.
“In the twenty-first century, we use a nineteenth-century school model with twentieth-century values. There’s clearly something wrong with this picture.” 3 likes
“We love to learn because learning feels good. It both satisfies and stimulates curiosity. Reading a good book, having a meaningful conversation, listening to great music—just doing these things make us happy. They have no extrinsic purpose. To give them one takes away from their joy.” 1 likes
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