An Agenda for Change
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 A liberal critique of our schools and some ideas for possible solutions. The editors of Rethinking Schools, a grassroots journal on school reform based in Milwaukee, Wis., have collected 25 articles and interviews from the journal's eight-year run. Although in the book's foreword Senator Herbert Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, writes that Rethinking Schools resembles ``a good gumbo; it has many distinct flavors that retain their integrity while blending into a tasty and pungent whole,'' this assemblage lacks true diversity. It consists mainly of variations on a leftist critique. Nevertheless, this book is a good resource for anyone interested in the debate over our school system. It includes well-written and cogent articles on multiculturalism and anti-bias education by Henry Louis Gates Jr., among others, and offers criticisms of standard curricula as well as practical guidelines for change. Bill Bigelow, for example, explains how he deals with Columbus's discovery/invasion of the Americas by having his students critically evaluate textbooks on the subject, while Linda Christensen writes about the necessity of teaching formal English without devaluing students' distinctive ways of expressing themselves. (Christensen's piece is particularly well stated, probably because her own lower-class origins give her first-hand knowledge of the humiliation students feel when their speech is mocked by teachers and classmates.) The section on testing and tracking raises more questions about detracking--such as how to grade students fairly in a detracked classroom--than it answers. (Bigelow writes that he was forced to give a student a B because of his effort and improvement when a C would have been a generous grade for him in a regular grading system.) Criticisms of E.D. Hirsch, textbooks adopted in California, and Dr. Seuss's The Lorax are harsh and occasionally petty, and discussions of national policy issues provide no surprises. Not much news for those who are up on the subject, but a good overview for the interested layperson.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-56584-214-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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