A passionate but poorly argued call for educational reform interspersed with illuminating anecdotes.

A teacher with a 34-year career describes his ideas for education reform as well as his experiences in the field.

Warren lists his experiences as a schoolteacher, paints what he sees as the public perception of American education and offers what he thinks would be effective solutions to the problems facing teachers, students and parents. The anecdotes aren’t well organized, but they do give a cumulative sense of how hard it is to effectively deal with lazy administrators, manipulative or troubled kids and constantly shifting governmental demands. In his best stories, Warren, a veteran teacher, explains strategies he found useful, such as befriending secretaries and janitors and congratulating students on their hall-wandering abilities as a way of motivating them to get to class. Forwarded e-mail-style interludes, constant references to popular culture and attacks on figures from Warren’s past are less compelling. Throughout the book, the author comes across as slightly unsympathetic to parents, policy makers and educational administrators, who are portrayed, with only a few exceptions, as traitors to the cause of education. Instead of a complicated ecology of needs and abilities, the book makes the world of education seem as if it revolves around teachers who receive a special calling for their work. Every time a colleague can’t manage the responsibilities of the position or leaves for a more lucrative career in another field, Warren takes it as proof positive of teachers’ holy mission and superiority. Warren blasts public critiques of schoolteachers without much substantive response other than suggesting teachers are underpaid and the job itself is very difficult. These are facts, but they fail to point the way toward solutions for the real problems in American public education, and Warren’s suggestions—such as immediately doubling teachers’ pay and reducing the class size to 10 students per class—are not realistic. As a document of a single teacher’s experience with educational bureaucracy—a voice largely absent from the present debate over education—the book is useful. But it is hampered by its uneven tone and bias.

A passionate but poorly argued call for educational reform interspersed with illuminating anecdotes.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-1440134005

Page Count: 251

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010




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



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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