Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offer hope for a better way...



One of the leaders of the progressive education movement reflects on ways to improve more than just standardized test scores.

The urgency of this book comes from two directions. The first, most obvious direction is the need for change in our American education system; every semester brings more news of disinterested students and harried teachers struggling to make a difference while guarding their backs against the threat of termination if the test scores don’t add up. The second direction is Little’s personal fight; diagnosed with bone cancer in the summer of 2013, he felt a new urgency to finish writing what he’d learned. The author died earlier this year, leaving behind his legacy of work at Park Day School in California and in this book, which examines successes and challenges at that school and many others like it. Little traveled around the country, visiting “progressive schools,” a loose moniker for schools that structure lessons and the direction of learning based on where the interests of the students take them. Emphasizing critical thinking, open communication and collaboration, and hands-on learning, the model works to prepare students to leave school capable of self-directed learning. With the assistance of Pulitzer Prize winner Ellison, Little explores the different movements forming to protest the government-driven “testing mania,” noting that corporate interests have lobbied furiously to convince legislators that using standardized tests to measure student achievement and teacher efficacy has in fact hampered both. Little also writes about the accountability and rigor that critics claim progressive schools lack. When we talk about the ways children learn, it is accepted wisdom that different people learn in different ways, but with standardized testing, we’re looking at one small piece of their educations and extrapolating too far.

Little’s enthusiasm and passion for the potential of progressive schools burn on every page and offer hope for a better way forward.

Pub Date: March 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-393-24616-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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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

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