Classic book: “Endangered Minds” by Jane M. Healy

NOTE: This is cross-posted with my Education Blog.

When I was a master’s student taking my first graduate-level educational psychology class, our professor assigned us several book reviews. We could choose the texts we would review from a long list he supplied. One of those books has had a strong influence on how I think about brain science, learning, and human development.

Endangered Minds by Jane M. Healy, Ph. D. was first published in 1990. The book’s dust jacket description reads as follows:

[Endangered Minds] examines how television, video games, and other components of popular culture compromise our children’s ability to concentrate and to absorb and analyze information. Drawing on neuropsychological research and an analysis of current educational practices, Healy presents in clear, understandable language:– How growing brains are physically shaped by experience
— Why television programs — even supposedly educational shows like Sesame Street — develop “habits of mind” that place children at a disadvantage in school
— Why increasing numbers of children are diagnosed with attention deficit disorder
— How parents and teachers can make a critical difference by making children good learners from the day they are born

I haven’t re-read this text in several years and I suspect that some contemporary research might refute some of Healy’s points – indeed, my own survey of educational neuroscience leads me to believe that some, if not many, individuals are able to leverage modern media and information technology to their advantage vis-a-vis brain development. Nonetheless, whether one agrees with her conclusions or not, Endangered Minds is an excellent introduction to the major issues surrounding our contemporary media culture and child development.

A fairly lengthy preview of Endangered Minds is available here from Google books. Dr. Healy’s personal Web site is here.


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