HORACE'S HOPE by Theodore R. Sizer

HORACE'S HOPE

What Works for the American High School

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The third in a series about changing America's schools, from the noted educator who launched a successful if snail's-pace revolution that both demands more and elicits more from adolescent students. A decade ago, Sizer (Horace's School, 1992) participated in a study of American high schools that found an educational assembly line offering rote skills and a frozen curriculum left over from the turn of the century. But in today's world, where the media, not the academies, set the ``common vocabulary,'' Sizer believes that schools must give children the tools to understand and if necessary challenge their often profit-driven ideas. ``Informed skepticism'' is the goal, he believes. It can be achieved through small classes and multidisciplinary, project- oriented goals that are assessed by ``exhibitions'' (echoing dissertation defenses) rather than standardized exams. This orientation, with its emphasis on curricula driven by teachers and parents, makes a strong case for school choice. Virtually buried in the text is a modest solution to the problem of bad schools in bad neighborhoods. Sizer suggests that geographic boundaries be obliterated, with public money following the student to the school of choice. A family in a poor section of the Bronx could opt for a school in nearby, affluent Westchester County, for instance, and enrollment would be determined by lottery. Surely, Westchester parents whose children were not lottery winners would bring political pressure for quality schools in the Bronx. Except for the lottery, Sizer's earlier books set forth most of the ideas found here, and despite the book's title, the fictional teacher ``Horace'' is not much in evidence. This is instead a celebration of the successes of Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, which supports the growing number of schools embracing the group's goals. Disarming in the defense of a new schoolroom for the 21st century, Sizer himself illustrates education at its best, setting up arguments, marshalling evidence, and reaching a convincing conclusion. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1996
ISBN: 0-395-73983-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1996




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