An informative analysis of elementary education that highlights pervasive problems.

THE KNOWLEDGE GAP

THE HIDDEN CAUSE OF AMERICA'S BROKEN EDUCATION SYSTEM--AND HOW TO FIX IT

Education journalist Wexler (co-author: The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades, 2017, etc.) mounts a compelling critique of American elementary schools, which, she argues, focus exclusively—and futilely—on boosting reading and math test scores, ignoring social studies, history, and science.

As a reaction to the drilling and rote memorization that characterized 19th-century public schools, child-centered progressive education systems began to emphasize “hand-on activities” that would respond to students’ interests and minimize teachers’ roles in “the transmission of knowledge.” By the mid-20th century, the “bitter, long-running conflict known as the Reading Wars” pitted those who supported teaching phonics against “whole language” theorists who believe that children will “naturally pick up the ability to read and write if allowed to choose books and topics that interest them.” Neither approach accounts for content. Wexler distinguishes between decoding, which she asserts can best be taught by “systematic phonics,” and comprehension, which she finds is now taught by systematic strategies—finding the main idea, summarizing—rather than by building a student’s knowledge base. The author finds this lack of teacher-directed knowledge egregious: There is little evidence that practicing skills improves test scores. In contrast, “nine countries that consistently outrank the United States on international assessments all provide their students with a comprehensive, content-rich curricula.” Comprehension is related not to skills but to a student’s familiarity with a subject, Wexler argues, and yet some educators believe that teaching history to young children is “developmentally inappropriate.” Besides citing various studies, the author offers vivid anecdotal evidence from classroom observation of a content-rich curriculum. Like E.D. Hirsch, whose 1987 book Cultural Literacy unleashed “a political firestorm,” Wexler admits the considerable challenge of creating curricula that foster critical thinking abilities, build logically from grade to grade, reflect “a diversity of viewpoints” with texts that “appeal to different constituencies,” and can be assessed by “general knowledge tests.”

An informative analysis of elementary education that highlights pervasive problems.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1355-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avery

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory.

PSYCHOCONDUCTION

A sweeping new theory that puts forward a way to rejuvenate a damaged brain without using surgical or pharmacological methods. 

Clinical psychologist Litvin (Litvin’s Code, 2011) proposes what he calls a bold “new neuropsychological discovery” about ways in which a chronically underperforming brain may be improved with carefully managed mental exercises. According to the author, the brain processes information via an internal mapping system, in which received data is directed to a “book of addresses.” When the brain malfunctions, he says, it’s largely the result of damaged complex brain cells receiving “incomplete or distorted requests,” which results in the improper distribution of information. However, he asserts that the brain has a kind of organic plasticity that allows it to respond to willfully enacted repairs. Litvin argues that simple cells in the body can be stimulated in a way that either rejuvenates or replace damaged complex cells; this stimulation can overcome what he calls “neuropsychological barriers” and result in the release of a newly “balanced amount of brain chemicals”—a vague formulation that typifies the author’s overall mode of discussion. This is achieved, he says, by activating the brain’s response to various stimuli in quick succession, including tactile, visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and olfactory stimuli. Litvin calls this theory of repair “psychoconduction,” and he includes a detailed series of mental exercises that ask readers to translate simple mathematical equations into various modes of expression; for example, he shows how a visual pattern may be translated into a knocking sound, or a clamping of a hand. Litvin has discussed psychoconduction in a number of other works, but here, he furnishes his most thorough and systematic explanation of it, largely in accessible, nontechnical language. However, this volume also replicates the principal vices of the others: It’s remarkably general, and it doesn’t present any empirical, experimental evidence for its claims. Also, Litvin’s promises regarding the scope of its application are equally unsubstantiated, as well as implausible; he claims, for example, that the exercises can remedy dyslexia, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, anger issues, and even help people who have hallucinations. It’s never clear how it’s all possible, and the author offers no solid proof. 

An ambitiously original but uncorroborated theory. 

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4669-1254-0

Page Count: 129

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A much-needed review of the American educational system and an examination of the techniques needed to improve the teaching...

"MULTIPLICATION IS FOR WHITE PEOPLE"

RAISING EXPECTATIONS FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S CHILDREN

A call-to-action book on how to close the racial achievement gap in the American educational system.

Despite having an African-American as president, MacArthur winner Delpit (Education/Southern Univ.; Other People’s Children, 1995, etc.) writes that African-American students are still not being treated as equal to their white peers. Using numerous examples from school situations and her own daughter’s experiences, the author shows that stereotypes and racial prejudices still abound, with many teachers teaching “down” to their black students. To counteract this negative effect, teachers need to understand the cultural backgrounds of their students and connect the curriculum to this background so that learning has relevance to the student. Instead of asking “do you know what I know?” Delpit says the question to ask is “what do you know?” “This is the question that will allow us to begin, with courage, humility, and cultural sensitivity the right educational journey,” she writes. When good teachers incorporate this method and learn to identify with each individual child, test scores and self-esteem rise and disobedience and absenteeism fall. Delpit feels her work in education is two-fold: She is “charged with preparing the minds and hearts of those who will inherit the earth…as a sacred trust…and the second purpose…is to build bridges across the great divides, the so-called achievement gap, the technology gap, class divisions, the racial divide.” If all teachers adopted these ideas, the American educational system would be vastly improved for all students. Covering age groups from preschool to college, Delpit offers advice to new and veteran teachers, advice that applies not only to African-American students but to all ethnic and minority groups.

A much-needed review of the American educational system and an examination of the techniques needed to improve the teaching methods of all involved in that system.

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-046-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more