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Endangered Minds

Endangered Minds

Why Children Dont Think And What We Can Do About It

  • reading group guide
Is today's fast-paced media culture creating a toxic environment for our children's brains?
In this landmark, bestselling assessment tracing the roots of America's escalating crisis in education, Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., 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
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 392 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780684856209 | 
  • October 1999
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"Kids' Brains Must Be Different..."

"Kids' brains must be different these days," I remarked half jokingly as I graded student essays in the faculty room late one afternoon.

"If I didn't think it was impossible, I would agree with you," chimed in a colleague who had experienced a particularly frustrating day with his English classes. "These kids are so sharp, but sometimes I think their minds are different from the ones I used to teach. I've had to change my teaching a lot recently, and I still wonder how much they're learning. But a human brain is a human brain. They don't change much from generation to... see more

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions
1. The author suggests that the "habits of mind" -- and even the brains -- of today's students have been changed by contemporary media and fast-paced lifestyles. Do you think it is possible? If so, have you seen any evidence to support this assertion?
2. What might account for the fact that young children's IQ scores appear to be rising at the same time older students' academic achievement scores are a cause for widespread concern?
3. The concept of "critical" or "sensitive" periods implies that if appropriate stimulation is lacking at the time when the brain is most receptive to it, the resulting skill development may be impaired. Acquiring the accent of a non-native language is given as an example. Can you think of any other life skills for which there seem to be critical/sensitive periods?
4. Chapters 4 and 5 stress the importance of language development for a wide variety of academic and personal skills. Which of these skills might be especially important for today's youngsters' future success, and why is language development involved? Can you think of any others that are not mentioned here?
5. Have you noticed any specific problems with listening abilities or critical thinking in today's culture? How would you rate the quality of language available in various media? Comment on the potential effects -- political, social, or economic -- for a society in which young people grow up unaccustomed to see more

About the Author

Jane M. Healy
Brent Bingham/

Jane M. Healy

Jane M. Healy, Ph.D. is a teacher and educational psychologist who has worked with young people of all ages, from pre-school to graduate school. She has been a classroom teacher, reading and learning specialist, school administrator, and clinician. She is currently a lecturer and consultant, and the author of three books about how children do (and don’t) learn, Your Child’s Growing Mind, Endangered Minds, and Failure to Connect. She and her work have been featured in national media such as CNN and NPR. She has twice been named “Educator of the Year” by Delta Kappa Gamma, the professional honor society of women educators. Jane and her husband claim they have learned most of what they know from raising three sons and enjoying six grandchildren.




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