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An often valuable, if not comprehensive, overview of special education’s successes and shortfalls.

A snapshot of the state of special education, 50 years after the launch of what became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Claypool and McLaughlin (We’re In This Together, 2015) here provide an accessible crash course on the history of special ed. In the main, they leave the talking to a range of national experts that they’ve interviewed, but they bolster their arguments with verifiable, current data from government agencies and anecdotal testimony about families’ experiences within the system. The authors are executives at ChanceLight, which provides behavioral health, educational, and therapy services for young people with autism and other disorders, and their entrepreneurial bent shows in this book. For example, they write that educational reform must take a leaf from business reform, citing Uber, Airbnb, and artisanal food producers as examples of “unbundling,” or moving from global to local ideas. (Some readers may counter, however, that far more Americans rely on global firms, such as Target, McDonald’s, and Wal-Mart.) The authors go on to argue that the efficacy of special education, especially for autism spectrum disorders, has been undermined by regulations. Programs vary from state to state, they say, and law-enshrined individualized education programs aren’t always followed; roughly half of the states don’t meet legal requirements in this area, they say. The book often quotes spokespeople from the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, because the authors deem it “a business disruptor whose innovations revolutionized the landscape”; less fully explored, however, is that group’s controversial standing in the disability community. Similarly, the book heavily features the benefits of applied behavior analysis and only partly balances them with dissenting voices that argue that autism, as a neurological problem, requires a multidisciplinary approach. The book’s recommendations for reform—such as a rethinking of definitions of “normal”—aren’t groundbreaking. However, the book finishes optimistically, and overall, it should motivate all parents of children with special needs. 

An often valuable, if not comprehensive, overview of special education’s successes and shortfalls.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4758-3496-3

Page Count: 154

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

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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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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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