TEACHING MATTERS

STORIES FROM INSIDE CITY SCHOOLS

A valuable book for urban educators.

Educators Falk and Blumenreich (The Power of Questions: A Guide to Teacher and Student Research, 2005) present case studies of kindergarten and elementary school classrooms that, although located in economically stressed urban areas, have found creative and intelligent means of making education effective.

Few cultural and social arenas have managed to dodge the divisiveness that has overtaken modern political discourse, and education is not one of the exceptions. Standardized testing, long proven to be ineffective at best and incredibly damaging at worst, remains the driving force behind assessing student progress; the distractions of technology and social media continue to spread further into kids' lives; the promise of a decent, reliable job based on academic performance is no longer taken for granted. The difficulty in crafting a solution is that one solution won't suffice. Falk and Blumenreich compile case studies that approach some of the problems from a micro, rather than macro, perspective. Whereas educational policy might suggest that one particular methodology is superior in a majority of situations, these case studies provide a more eclectic set of approaches to dealing with issues. A handful of the case studies, and the conclusions from those studies, overlap each other in content; this ties into the overall thrust of the book. Issues of immigration sensitivity in children just starting school tie into the importance of drawing from the strengths of a multicultural classroom. The authors take the studies further than standard liberal boilerplate issues, however, wading into the animosity of parent-teacher relationships and providing constructive insight into the failings and strengths of both groups. Flying in the face of national standardized testing, three studies explore the strengths of differentiated teaching. As often happens with thoughtful consideration of a problem, the solutions raise more questions, which the authors strive to explore without getting lost down a rabbit hole.

A valuable book for urban educators.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-490-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Categories:

INSIDE AMERICAN EDUCATION

THE DECLINE, THE DECEPTION, THE DOGMAS

American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

Categories:

THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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