An educator argues for an investment in a new kind of public school.
Stoddard (Educating for Human Greatness, 2010, etc.) spent 25 years as a public school teacher and principal. As political winds begin to favor the expansion of charter schools, this self-proclaimed “maverick” wishes to turn standardized education on its head. Instead of forcing students to perform according to a proscribed array of academic standards, he believes children should be judged by their own customized sets, based on their unique talents: “If the purpose of education is to develop quality human beings, we may better understand why we need a system that uses subject-matter content to develop human qualities.” Children, he writes, “thrive when treated as individuals, but they rebel, drop out, bully, become apathetic, or even commit suicide when we ignore their personhood and try to standardize them like machines.” While the author offers no apology for his unfavorable assessment of the American educational system, he asks for readers’ patience when they spot the recurrence of key ideas. Since many of the 38 chapters consist of newspaper editorials that Stoddard wrote while pitching his concepts to the public, he repeats himself frequently. But his plainspoken, journalistic style makes the book a quick read. His audience should immediately grasp his love of teaching and sincere desire to make schools—and, by extension, society—better places. Unfortunately, the work lacks concrete instruction on how to make these changes happen—that is, what exactly communities should do to get approval from state and federal governments to redesign public schools. To readers anxious to enact his principles, Stoddard advises, “Press for your freedom, as specified by the Tenth Amendment, to develop a local school system that encourages and supports teachers.” Ultimately, this worthy volume should not be read by itself but rather as an accompaniment to the author’s preceding work, which offers more in-depth suggestions.
This book gives teachers and parents strong talking points when approaching boards, politicians, and government agencies with appeals for changes in public schools.