The anecdotes are uplifting, but the authors are not persuasive about the ease of adapting these schools’ strategies to...

DEEPER LEARNING

HOW EIGHT INNOVATIVE PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE TRANSFORMING EDUCATION IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

The authors contend that learning how to learn is the most essential skill for 21st-century students.

“Deeper Learning” is the term education advisers Martinez and McGrath (The Collaborative Advantage: Lessons from K-16 Educational Reform, 2005, etc.) use to describe the educational goals they advocate. “Deeper Learning,” they write, “is the process of preparing and empowering students to master essential academic content, think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, have an academic mindset, and be self-directed.” It’s hard to imagine any school system arguing against these laudable aims, but the authors assert that most American schools fall short of achieving them. Setting Common Core State Standards, they believe, is a step in the right direction, but implementing those standards has been challenging, and they serve as only “one element” in getting students to acquire the knowledge and skills they need. The authors cite eight schools that have met the goals of Deeper Learning, including the Avalon Charter School in St. Paul, Minnesota; Impact Academy of Arts & Technology, a charter high school in Hayward, California; Science Leadership Academy, a magnet high school in Philadelphia; and High Tech High, a charter school in San Diego. These schools represent diverse ethnic and economic populations but are “slightly smaller than the norm” for American high schools. Indeed, with all having fewer than 600 students, the schools selected are far smaller than high schools in many U.S. cities, which serve thousands. Six chapters show how each school meets Deeper Learning goals: establishing collaborative learning communities; fostering students’ self-direction; contextualizing and integrating subjects; taking education outside of the school and into the community; motivating students to discover their own interests; and incorporating technology to enhance learning.

The anecdotes are uplifting, but the authors are not persuasive about the ease of adapting these schools’ strategies to larger, financially strapped settings.

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59558-959-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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