Title: Mental Penguins
Author: Ivelin Sardamov
This book was inspired by Prof. Sardamov’s efforts to understand a troubling paradox in his own work – while he has worked to become a better college teacher, his students have not shown the expected advances in learning. He draws on key findings in neuroscience to explain the waning interest in and knowledge of complex social issues in the United Statesand other countries.
He attributes this troubling trend primarily to the effects of information overload, ubiquitous screens, and constant internet access. He argues that the chronic overstimulation generated by our current sociotechnological environment is turning us into “mental penguins” – developing new and shedding old aptitudes as we adapt to an extreme mental environment.
These changes affect us all, but have the strongest impact on children, adolescents, and young adults whose brains are more”plastic.” As a result, their enjoyment of the written word, and even of the real world, is often blunted – a tendency which reflects a largercultural and neurophysiological crisis within contemporary societies. Prof. Sardamov believes that the shift toward online and experiential forms of learning will not alleviate existing problems but is likely to make them worse. He emphasizes the need to foster love and capacity for reading in children and adolescents since this is the only constantly available tool of knowledge accumulation.
Though the book is inevitably provocative, it will appeal to readers interested in alternative forms of education (like Steiner-Waldorf and Montessori), or to those who share the concerns of authors like Jane Healy (Endangered Minds), Sven Birkerts (The Gutenberg Elegies), Nicholas Carr(“Is Google Making Us Stupid” and The Shallows), Peter Whybrow (American Mania), Susan Greenfield(Mind Change), Catherine Steiner-Adair (The Big Disconnect), Richard Arum and Josipa Roxa (Academically Adrift), etc.