Specialized but well-argued appeal to reframe the debate over poor reading achievement in schools by looking outside the classroom. Coles (Psychiatry/Univ. of Rochester; The Learning Mystique, 1988) challenges the educational establishment as well as scientists and politicians on the causes of poor reading skills in both children and adults. It misses the point, he notes, to reduce the matter to the question of phonics vs. whole-word instruction, although governments and study commissions are legislating the issue, largely on the side of phonics (that is, decoding words by sounding them out). Coles traces this pedagogical quarrel from the theory of “natural” learning, first advanced in the 18th century, through the open education experiments of the 1960s and the recent emphasis on thinking and analytic skills as a goal of reading instruction. The educators’ disagreements have been further muddled by psychological theories that supported segregating children into groups based on test performances. Accelerating information about the brain and its functions also came into play, with alleged proof that slow readers were somehow neurologically impaired. Coles questions why a learner’s emotional state, self-perception, and life situation should take a backseat to such concepts. Both educators and politicians should stop tinkering with the technicalities of classroom instruction and begin to deal with the real causes of illiteracy, including a lack of substantive commitment to education, he urges. “Money matters,” says Coles, both in funding smaller classes and better trained teachers and in providing children from poor families with minimum health care, good nutrition, a safe home base, and a stable family. With few real-life examples to leaven the dense technical arguments for a general reader, this book is most likely to convert those already in the church; still, a strong case on behalf of an educational commitment to the whole child.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)