A thought-provoking but potentially controversial plan for revamping the American public school system.

READ REVIEW

S.O.S.

STUDENT ORIENTED SCHOOLS

An ambitious call for a top-to-bottom revamping of American education.

Educator Stoddard (Opinions of a Maverick Educator, 2016, etc.) begins this brief but sweeping manifesto with three stark assertions: that standardized, high school classroom curricula drastically underserve students by enforcing conformity, that a radically new system would accentuate the individuality and potential of each student, and that the existence of the U.S. Department of Education is unconstitutional. In place of the traditional educational curriculum—in which students in kindergarten through 12th grades are taught a standard set of subjects, including math, science, English, and history—Stoddard envisions a program called “Educating for Human Greatness,” which “makes it possible for every student to excel in what they were born to be good at doing” by emphasizing eight specific qualities, including Identity (“The power of knowing who we are as special contributors to society”), Inquiry (“The powers of curiosity and effective investigation”), and Interaction (“The powers of caring communication and healthy relationships”). These qualities would form the basis of a student-centered educational model featuring “wise mentors” in “home-room advisory” classes across the country. Under his program, all classes would be elective, traditional graduation requirements would be abolished, and numerous new class topics would replace the customary core curriculum. Stoddard presents his plan in consistently clear and accessible prose. However, no amount of clarity will deflect likely objections by seasoned educators, or even by parents who remember initially disliking core curriculum subjects that they now enjoy—or use to make a living. Stoddard’s system not only assumes that all students are forward-thinking, aspirational, and in love with learning, but also calls for massive school-funding increases of a type that only the federal government, of which he’s strongly critical, can pay for. Readers will have to assess how much of the author’s dream they share, which seems to employ wishful thinking about a post-grades future.

A thought-provoking but potentially controversial plan for revamping the American public school system.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61493-547-6

Page Count: 92

Publisher: The Peppertree Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more