THE WORLD WE CREATED AT HAMILTON HIGH 1953-1987 by Gerald Grant
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THE WORLD WE CREATED AT HAMILTON HIGH 1953-1987

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A penetrating book that builds on the enduring insights of Goodlad, Sizer, and Boyer and offers special inspirations of its own. Grant (Syracuse Univ.) takes a new tack in evoking an American high school, creating a kind of social biography that traces the movements influencing the character of Hamilton High (a real but disguised school). Following the school from its traditional glory years (1953-65) through periods of turbulence (1966-71) and radical reorganization (1971-79) to its more stable, significantly reconstituted present (1980-85), he offers a richly detailed history that recalls the flavor of those years (""How To Fix Up Your Bachelor Pad"" among the curriculum offerings) but concentrates on the course of events and the chief figures involved. Hamilton lost its staff-consensus during the years of upheaval and left its teachers in a serious predicament: caught between bureaucratic mandates and the snarls of due process arising from regular student challenges to authority, they felt confused, frustrated, and increasingly isolated. Only in recent years has Hamilton emerged as a nearly integrated, mainstream school with rising test scores, a more secure environment, and (thanks to Grant's visionary interventions) a faculty with a hand in its own destiny. Grant contrasts this almost emblematic school (""America in microcosm"") with three others that have, beyond traditions of academic excellence, what he calls ""a strong positive ethos""--shared principles to which both teachers and students willingly conform. He writes affectingly of ""the spirit of the place,"" demonstrates how that matters as much as the physical conditions for study, and insists that teachers must confront not just ""questions of method and imagination"" but also ""deeper qualities of character."" This book has some remarkable features, especially Grant's tactical Urban Anthropology course, which trained students to report on their in-school culture (when funding sources for adult observers failed to come through). Its most compelling arguments concern reform from within and the need for community. Written with deep feeling for the noble possibilities in the profession, it should reach all but the most cynical.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press