A heartfelt but limited-scope plea for systemic change from a determined gadfly.

A journalist argues that conventional schools are oppressive, anti-democratic, and even harmful to children.

Goyal (One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School, 2012), currently an undergraduate at Goddard College, likens schools to prisons, where inmates are “cut off from the rest of society, stripped of your basic freedoms and rights, like free speech and free press, told what to do all day, and surveilled dragnet style.” He bases that harsh indictment on his own recent, frustrating experience at a well-regarded Long Island high school; three years spent visiting schools and interviewing students, administrators, and teachers; and reading works by John Holt, Jonathan Kozol, Ivan Illich, and George Dennison, famous advocates of education reform in the 1960s and ’70s. Unhappy students offer Goyal ample evidence “that schools are exhausting the gifts of creativity, curiosity, and zeal” that the author believes every child possesses. Happy students attend unconventional schools such as Brightworks in San Francisco (49 students, with tuition of $25,095); Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts (150 students, and a top tuition of $8,400 per year); and Brooklyn Free School, with 82 students and tuition ranging from $18,000 per year for preschool to $22,000 per year for high school. Goyal admits that these schools are tiny compared with the huge public school population, and because they charge tuition, they “generally attract students from upper-middle-class and affluent families,” the population Goyal seems most familiar with. He has little to say about the needs of disadvantaged students. All students, he insists, should pursue their “passions and interests,” preferably outside of classrooms. “The ultimate dream,” he writes, “is for the city and community to be reimagined as the school itself,” where students would take advantage of libraries, museums, community centers, and even coffeehouses, learning “however, whenever, whatever, and with whomever they choose.”

A heartfelt but limited-scope plea for systemic change from a determined gadfly.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-54012-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015




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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992



The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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