THE SCHOOLS WE NEED

AND WHY WE DON'T HAVE THEM

A brick hurled at the windows of the K-12 educational establishment for serving up content-lite curricula that leave US elementary and secondary schools among the worst in the developed world. Hirsch, whose Cultural Literacy helped launch the culture wars, traces the origins of ``Thoughtworld'' (the lock-step ideology pervading elementary education) to three elements— American exceptionalism, Romanticism, and professional separatism- -which when combined culminated in an anti-fact, supposedly child- centered ideology first propagated by Columbia University's Teachers College in the 1920s. With the best intentions, educators, pointing to today's information explosion, have forsaken rigorous, subject-based instruction for buzzwords he claims are unproven in practice, such as ``critical thinking skills,'' ``project- oriented,'' ``hands-on,'' ``developmentally appropriate,'' ``multiple intelligences,'' and the like. Despite his best efforts, Hirsch cannot easily dismiss the complaint that many of America's educational ills spring from a society disrupted by clashing ethnic groups and crumbling families. He is on safer ground in arguing that, because of these social problems, a demanding curriculum is needed to mitigate the effects of class on America's poorest children in their crucial formative years. Hirsch calls for national educational standards. Critics might argue that critical thinking skills serve as the only constant in periods when the conception of cultural literacy repeatedly changes. But without specific content-based objectives, Hirsch observes, children are likely to get little of substance—a dire outcome for all, but especially for disadvantaged children, who transfer in and out of schools the most. He is also likely to vex educational reformers in pointing out that bolstering student self-esteem does not raise achievement if praise comes without work. Hirsch sometimes sounds like Dickens's Thomas Gradgrind, harping on ``facts.'' Still, an on-target indictment of an educational system that refuses to recognize the madness in its teaching methods. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-385-48457-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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