S.O.S.: Sustain Our Schools by Patricia Albjerg Graham

S.O.S.: Sustain Our Schools

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A concise, intelligent prescription for redirecting the American school system through fundamental changes in society. Most politicians and many educators mirror the antics of contortionists when it comes to education. They walk forward to the future while looking back wistfully to the good old days and sitting tight on a budget that was inadequate 20 years ago. Graham, until last year dean of Harvard's Graduate School of Education and now director of the research-oriented Spencer Foundation, suffers from no such three-ring thinking. The good old days were never that good, she knows, and today's schools are not so bad. It is the very success of the schools that burdens them with trying to unravel social as well as educational tangles. Graham singles out four sensitive areas: poverty, lowered productivity, lack of public participation, and personal passivity. Such social and public policy problems, she says, are not solved by tweaking the secondary-school curriculum or by calling for an ephemeral ""higher standard."" Graham is not the first commentator to identify a more general social malaise, but she is extraordinarily pointed, asking, for instance, how a society that is fundamentally anti-intellectual can support a mandate for higher academic performance from its children. Chapters survey the demands of families, government, universities, and business upon schools, as well as their potential contributions. Many suggestions seem simple to implement but encounter inexplicable resistance. For instance, why can't school schedules be changed to accommodate a work force that no longer needs its children on the farms in the summer? A program of scholarships, fellowships, and sabbaticals that would bring in new teachers, revitalize experienced ones, and train administrators in managerial skills would cost only about $50 million annually, Graham estimates, ""less than nine days of interest payments on the savings and loan bail-out."" Slim but potent, packed with facts and with workable recommendations for improvement in the schools--if only the will were there.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 150pp
Publisher: "Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux"