Cognitive Growth

Cognitive growth involves a delicate balance between receiving the predigested wisdom of others and making meaning for oneself. In the one there is no growth because there is no participation. In the other there is no growth because there is nothing but participation, without the opportunity to try on other people's ideas.

The first risks leaving a student mired in the position that William Perry describes as "dualism," trusting in authority to separate the right ideas from the wrong ones. The second risks leaving a student mired in "multiplicity," in which every truth is as good as any other and there is no need to get to know other truths that don't fit the believer's "personal opinion."

If hypertext will reduce our enthusiasm for or ability to immerse ourselves in others' worlds, then we may be sacrificing a critical element in cognitive growth. As writers like Myron Tuman and Neil Postman suggest, the peek-a-boo world of electronic texts, like the channel-clicking world of television, may teach us that we need not tire ourselves getting to know what others really think. Moreover, if it is really impossible to present a sustained discursive argument in hypertext, even the most determined reader will never see more than a postmodern construction of her own thoughts in other people's texts.

Reading hypertext An opening move in my darker ponderings, based on some disturbing analogies between hypertext and television.
Myron Tuman on Zapping A depressing but interesting quotation from Tuman that extends the analogy between hypertext, television and Cliff's Notes.
"Now . . . This": Neil Postman on Television A quotation that captures Postman's view of television as an assault on relevant connection.
Is Hypertext Friendly to Argumentative Rhetoric? The crux of my argument about the rhetoric of hypertext..
Perry on Cognitive Growth An extended background discussion of William Perry's work by Joanne Kurfiss.

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