A leading agitator for reform of the American school system outlines what needs to be done now, and why.
CNN commentator Perry (Raggedy Schools, 2009, etc.), a former school principal in Hartford, Conn., has been on the front lines of education reform since the 1990s. He calls himself a “functionalist”—i.e., “In my mind, if it works it's right”—and endeavors to employ functionalism in all of his projects. Secondary schools work if their students are qualified in the way their certificates represent, he writes, and are properly prepared for college. More than $2.5 billion is spent yearly in remedial education at the college level, repeating what should have been accomplished before they arrived on campus. Perry examines the responsibilities of teachers and teaching, parents and parenting, administrators and superintendents and the teacher’s unions (“the worst thing that ever happened to education”). The author’s first priority, however, is the children. He is a strong opponent of those who contend that funding disparities between inner-city and suburban districts are a cause of the failures in the system, and he insists that schools and school districts fail because of low expectations and poor teaching skills. He argues that teachers who do not like their students cannot teach them, because the students will not trust the teachers. He discusses how he finds and recruits teachers who will match his outlook, and what he expects from parents. Throughout the book, the author displays an admirably action-oriented approach, with plenty of advice for parents and others on how to get involved effectively.
Perry views his “functionalist” approach to education as a part of what needs to be done for the country to succeed. Many of his arguments are controversial, but they are crucial to the debate.