No matter the real-world glitches in her proposals, Kopp’s insistence on aiming high should make it required reading for all...



An optimistic narrative about school reform from an author with an unusual perspective.

Kopp (One Day, All Children...: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach For America and What I Learned Along the Way, 2001) founded Teach for America 20 years ago, and currently serves as its chief executive. Because of her vision, tens of thousands of young men and women decided to instruct the neediest children in schools across the United States, both in decaying urban cores and isolated rural areas. Despite—or possibly because of—their lack of teacher training within colleges, those trained by Kopp tend to improve classroom learning. The author mostly remains in the background as she distills lessons learned from Teach for America enrollees. Although numerous attitudes and skills constitute superb teaching, perhaps the foremost attribute is the belief that disadvantaged children can learn well enough to attend college. Then it becomes a matter of persuading those children about what they can achieve. As Kopp seems to be veering into the never-never land of outsized optimism, she reins herself in by showing how far most schools need to travel to deliver on the promise of a first-class education for every student. A large percentage of the author’s examples derive from New Orleans, where school administrators started fresh after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina; Washington, D.C., during the controversial tenure of superintendent Michelle Rhea; and New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools chief Joel Klein refused to believe that good was good enough. Kopp labels the desirable educators "transformational teachers." She has observed many such educators, especially those she knows from Teach for America, and interviewed many of them while composing this book. Transformational teachers tend to raise the overall learning abilities and standardized test scores of every student in the classroom, despite the seeming improbability of such an outcome. However, Kopp emphasizes that there are no shortcuts. Even the most successful teachers need time, counted in years, to hone their leadership skills and sell their ways of functioning to suspicious, by-the-book administrators.

No matter the real-world glitches in her proposals, Kopp’s insistence on aiming high should make it required reading for all professional educators.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-740-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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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 20, 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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