A well-argued challenge to educational orthodoxy that calls for a systemic overhaul.

BLIND SPOTS

WHY STUDENTS FAIL AND THE SCIENCE THAT CAN SAVE THEM

A behavioral scientist suggests improvements for the teaching process.

In this debut education book, Berens challenges pedagogical orthodoxy and argues that all children, including those with neurological differences, can acquire fundamental skills if teachers understand how learning happens and how to measure it. The volume opens with an evaluation of standardized test data that shows how students fail to achieve proficiency and explains how the educational establishment declines to provide most pupils with an environment conducive to learning. The author, drawing on a behavioral science background, sees learning as a pattern of actions, consequences, and responses selected for the desired outcome—praise and encouragement in some cases, tangible rewards in others, with the educator responsible for determining what the student needs. The book explains, with clear examples, how this works in a classroom setting and in broader human development and how contemporary schools can implement the techniques. The volume also addresses the needs of neurodiverse children, arguing that many diagnosed learning disabilities are actually responses to ineffective teaching that can be eliminated through more helpful instruction. Even children with physiological differences can learn in an appropriately designed environment (“The failure to acquire skills results from ineffective instruction, just like for children without disabilities”). Berens is a successful advocate for the behaviorally informed interpretation of the learning process, both explaining the underlying theory and laying out evidence in favor of her arguments. Traditional educators do not come off well in the book’s portrayal, but they are presented as misguided rather than malicious practitioners of a system based on ideology instead of data. While the frequent mentions of the author’s tutoring business can give the text the feeling of an infomercial at times, they also serve to remind readers that the work’s conclusions are based not only on theory, but also on decades of practical experience with a variety of students. The writing is strong and the topic is intriguing, accessible to readers with little prior knowledge of education practices.

A well-argued challenge to educational orthodoxy that calls for a systemic overhaul.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951412-09-8

Page Count: 232

Publisher: The Collective Book Studio

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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