Books on Education
||Many of these books are available in your local library, or any good bookstore.
But when you follow the provided links to Amazon and purchase there,
a small percent of your purchase
price is paid as a commission, helping to compensate for our efforts. Thank you!
Here are some quick suggestions for giving ed books as presents:
|For giving to...||Suggestions|
|Teachers - General
|Teachers - Reading
Damer & Bursuck
|Teachers - Other Subjects
See listings by topic, below
|Administrators, knowledgeable teachers
|In ed school -- or thinking about it
Books by Topic
"Angry Parents, Failing Schools:
What's Wrong With the Public Schools &
What You Can Do About It" by Dr. Elaine McEwan
In a fever to "reform" our schools for "21st century" "higher-order
thinking skills", educational bureaucrats have reduced the amount
of substantive content in curricula and replaced it with
touchy-feelie psychobabble encouraging feelings, writing about
problems instead of solving them, and meaningless goals.
McEwan, an award-winning school principal takes the educrats to task.
Warning: the subject is not inner-city schools; it may very well include
the school YOUR kids attend. Yes, YOUR kids!|
I found McEwan's book invaluable simply because it is up-to-date, and focused
on everyday schools that we would think should be less influenced by wacko theories.
Also, since McEwan
spent most of her career in the Chicago area, her insights are especially
valuable to those of us in this area. Any number of times she refers to a town or
a school in the area, and I thought, "Wait, that's a good area and I thought it
had great schools -- you mean they're doing this goofy stuff, too?"
I'd heartily recommend this book to parents, school board members, newspaper
editors and others who are concerned about quality in supposedly
"good" school districts.
"Why Don't Students Like School:
A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom"
by Daniel T. Willingham
Some high praise:
Dan Willingham's book makes fascinating but complicated research from cognitive
science accessible to teachers. It is jam packed with ideas that teachers
will find both intellectually rich and useful in their classroom work."
-- Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
"This readable, practical book by a distinguished cognitive scientist explains the
universal roots of effective teaching and learning. With great wit and authority
it practices the principles it preaches. It is the best teachers' guide I know
of -- a classic that belongs in the book bag of every teacher from preschool to grad
-- E. D. Hirsch, Jr., university professor emeritus, University of Virginia
"Dan Willingham, rare among cognitive scientists for also being a wonderful
writer, has produced a book about learning in school that reads like a trip
through a wild and thrilling new country. For teachers and parents, even
students, there are surprises on every page. Did you know, for instance,that our
brains are not really made for thinking?"
-- Jay Mathews, education columnist,The Washington Post
"Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So"
by Jay P. Greene
Jay Greene takes on the conventional wisdom and closely examines eighteen myths
advanced by the special interest groups dominating public education. In addition
to the money myth, the class size myth, and the teacher pay myth, Greene debunks
the special education myth (special ed programs burden public schools), the
certification myth (certified or more experienced teachers are more effective in
the classroom), the graduation myth (nearly all students graduate from high
school), the draining myth (choice harms public schools), the segregation myth
(private schools are more racially segregated), and several more.
"Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education"
by Joe Williams
From Publishers Weekly:|
As an education reporter for the New York Daily News and the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel, Williams has the dirt on some of the nation's largest public school
systems, and in this book, part scathing expose and part call-to-action, Williams
paints a bleak picture before shifting into a discussion about remedying the many
problems he details, from systems that treat parents and students as antagonists
to unprepared and inexperienced teachers and administrators. In the first part of
the book, Williams overwhelms with a string of horrifying and scandalous tales of
school mismanagement, piling them on to the point where they begin to lose their
impact. The book takes a turn when Williams discusses the ways parents, teachers,
administrators, politicians and the business sector can work together to remedy
our failing schools. From New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to
control schools from the top down, to Mothers on the Move's struggle against
corruption in their South Bronx school district, Williams does a fantastic job
chronicling events and ideas as well as capturing the people on both sides of the
issues. In particular, his extended analysis of the battle over school vouchers
in Milwaukee is a riveting tale of corruption toppled by community activism.
"The Schools We Need: And Why We Don't Have Them" by E. D. Hirsch
This is the indispensible guide for teachers, administrators and
knowledgable parents who want to make their school strong
and substantive, rather than a trendy and progressivist mess.
This book is an absolute classic. It's pretty detailed and is not a
light read by any means. But topic by topic and chapter by chapter
it gives solid arguments in favor of substance in the classroom and
against empty theories.
The book's write-up says, "For over fifty years, American schools
have operated on the assumption that challenging children is bad
for them, teachers do not need to know the subjects they teach,
that the learning "process" should be emphasised over the facts
taught within it. Yet, as renowned educator and author E. D. Hirsch
shows in The Schools We Need, this establishment ideology is a
tragedy of good intentions gone awry. Hirsch argues that in
eschewing content-based curricula for abstract--and disproved--
theories of congnitive development, the educational establishment
has done irreparable harm to America's students, and instead of
preparing them for the country's highly competitive,
information-based economy, the process-oriented curricula the
establishment practices has severely curtailed their ability,
and desire, to learn."
We'd rate this Hirsch book as the definitive, authoritative book on the subject.
It would make a great
gift for your kids' teachers and administrators if they've have been only exposed
to the progressivist theory of education. Also, if you are lucky enough to
have a teacher or administrator or school board member who is committed to a
content-rich challenging approach, this is a great source of info to
sell and defend that point of view. It is also invaluable to parents
and others who want a more in-depth, meatier book that uses the language of educators.
In 1996, over 100 leading educators, mathematicians, scientists and reformers
letter to President Clinton, saying, in part,
Dear Mr. President:
There is no greater threat to the future of America than the failure
to educate our children. Yet, the output of our educational system continues to deteriorate. ...
The current national outcry for standards of learning reflects the
need for our educational system to focus on content and academics.
Unfortunately, these simple ideas are not compatible with the reform
efforts of the last fifty years, and there is every reason to believe
that standards based on content and academics will be subverted
before they ever reach the classrooms of America.
This letter is not a plea to eliminate the Department of Education
nor a request for the removal or restructuring of the Goals 2000
program. We ask but one simple thing. Think of it as a favor from the
President of the United States to the children of America. All we ask
is that you, personally, read The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have
Them by E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
It is our belief that in reading this book you will gain important
insight into the gravity of the problem and realize why we are
pessimistic about the current prospects for revitalizing education in
America. We believe that you will see the need to make the repair of
American education a top priority for your second term. We even
believe that you will come to feel, as we do, that it is imperative
that you bring E. D. Hirsch into your service to advise you directly
on these matters.
"The Knowledge Deficit: Closing the Shocking Education Gap for American Children" by E. D. Hirsch
From Publishers Weekly:|
The notion of learning how to learn is a shibboleth in America's schools, but it
distorts reading instruction, contends this provocative manifesto. Education
theorist Hirsch decries a dominant "Romantic" pedagogy that disparages factual
knowledge and emphasizes reading comprehension "strategies" -- summarizing,
identifying themes, drawing inferences -- that children can deploy on any text. Such
formal skills, he argues, are easily acquired; what kids really need is a broad
background knowledge of history, science and culture to help them assimilate new
vocabulary and understand more advanced readings. "Process-oriented" methods that
apply reading comprehension drills to "vapid" texts waste time and slow kids'
progress, Hirsch contends, and should be replaced with a more traditional,
"knowledge-oriented" academic approach with a rich factual content. Hirsch
repeats the call for a standard curriculum based on a canon of general knowledge
"What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know:
Preparing Your Child for a Lifetime of Learning"
"What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 1st Grade Education"
"What Your 2nd Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 2nd Grade Education"
"What Your 3rd Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 3rd Grade Education"
"What Your 4th Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 4th Grade Education"
"What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 5th Grade Education"
"What Your 6th Grader Needs to Know:
Fundamentals of a Good 6th Grade Education"
(click on any of these lines for info from Amazon)
(Grade 3 book shown,
click on titles above
for each grade)
This series, edited by prominent educational scholar E. D. Hirsch,
is based on the hugely successful "Core Knowledge" curriculum implemented
in hundreds of schools nationwide. The premise is simple: kids
should actually learn things in school, rather than just engaging
in new age art projects, teaming up on involved but meaningless group projects, or
writing about their feelings about math and science.
The books are a valuable check on what your kids' schools are teaching them.
Prepare to be dismayed!|
Moreover, given the schools' failings, these books empower you
to educate and delight your children with the rich, factual content they crave.
"Books to Build on : A Grade-By-Grade Resource Guide for
Parents and Teachers" by E. D. Hirsch
There are zillions of books on the Roman Empire,
the Lewis and Clarke expedition, the solar system, or whatever.
How do you know which are any good at actually conveying any useful info?
This book provides recommendations that are in sync with the Core Knowledge
curriculum (outlined for parents in the above series of books).
"Core Knowledge Sequence: Content Guidelines for Grades K-8"
from the Core Knowledge Foundation
OK, so we know what we don't want in a school. But what do we want?
What does a modern,
content-rich, challenging, hands-on, lively, exciting school look like?
Here's part of the answer. This 8 1/2 x 11 paperback is the curriculum
bible for all of the Core Knowledge schools nationwide. Its 200 pages outline the specific
content that is prescribed for each grade and topic. Read it and drool.|
The Core Knowledge Sequence is available only directly from the Core Knowledge
Foundation, (804)977-7550 or at the
Core Knowledge website. But at about $20, it's a bargain.
Much of the literature about school quality talks about what's wrong
with progressivist schools -- the Sequence gives some flavor about how to do
To read more about Core Knowledge, go to this page of our website.
Read what students, teachers and parents say about Core Knowledge.
Is your child's school this good?
Why not? It could be!
The Core Knowledge Foundation also offers a fascinating 40 minute videotape with
two television programs about the goals of CK, and life in a CK classroom.
For more on Core Knowledge, go to that page of this website,
or directly to the website of the Core Knowledge Foundation.
"What Is Core Knowledge?"
from the Core Knowledge Foundation
Here's a perfect way to introduce Core Knowledge to parents, school board members,
administrators, teachers and community members!
This ten-minute DVD is Core Knowledge for beginners. It provides an
overview of the Core Knowledge curriculum for kindergarten through
grade 8. It shows lively Core Knowledge classes in action. It
provides interviews with experienced teachers talking about the
benefits of using a program that builds knowledge from grade to grade
in a coherent and coordinated way. What comes across, both directly
and indirectly, is how Core Knowledge excites children about learning
and helps teachers improve student performance.
"Cultural Literacy" by E. D. Hirsch
This is Hirsch's best-seller, an attempt to codify a minimal set of what
an educated adult should know.
The book is perhaps best known for its widely discussed appendix with a
content listing of what educated Americans should know. This
list has been the victim of endless knee-jerk vitriol from
education theorists, many of whom have not bothered to actually
read the book.
The book turns out to be far more than a list of, yes, what
educated Americans should know (and much of which schools have stopped
teaching). The real glory of this book is its main body:
In it, Hirsch presents a compelling case for how a common
base of knowledge vitally serves both the individual and society at large.
By the way, if you are interested in this book just because you've heard of it and you'd like
to know more about Hirsch, we recommend that you
consider his "The Schools We Need" instead, which is far more
detailed about the fads and fallacies that infect schools, and what methods
can be used to remedy them.
A Century of Failed School Reforms" by Diane Ravitch
This astonishly well-research and provocative book should be read, studied
and discussed by every teacher and school administrator in America. Ravitch
dissects a century's worth of one fuzzy-headed "reform" after another,
leading to the current educational crisis. If you thought that you were taught the
full history of education in ed school, Ravitch will fill in the details for you.
interview with Diane Ravitch about Left Back from the Atlantic Monthly.
Here's part of Amazon's description of Left Back:
Left Back recounts grandiose efforts by education reformers to use the schools to promote social and political goals, even when they diminished the schools' ability to educate children. It shows how generations of reformers have engaged in social engineering, advocating such innovations as industrial education, intelligence testing, curricular differentiation, and life-adjustment education. These reformers, she demonstrates, simultaneously mounted vigorous campaigns against academic studies.
Left Back charges that American schools have been damaged by three misconceptions. The first is the belief that the schools can solve any social or political problem. The second is the belief that only a portion of youngsters are capable of benefiting from a high-quality education. The third is that imparting knowledge is relatively unimportant, compared to engaging students in activities and experiences.
"Myths and Misconceptions About Teaching: What Really Happens in Classrooms"
by Vicki E. Snider
Excerpts from a review in the TC Record:
Vicki Snider's new book, Myths and Misconceptions About Teaching: What Really
Happens in the Classroom, challenges whether regular classrooms with holistic,
discovery-oriented and democratic philosophies are appropriate teaching
environments for any students. Snider suggests that the most effective teaching
methods are direct instruction, explicit teaching, and highly structured
curricular environments. She bases this argument on empirical evidence of the
effectiveness of these teaching methods.
Snider proposes that many teaching strategies have come from theories of learning
that have not been empirically tested, such as multiple intelligence, and that
student failures to a large extent can be explained by the fact that education
systems do not empirically test teaching methods and curricula. She argues that
the trend toward whole language, discovery-oriented, and experiential approaches
to learning hinders learning at best, and at worst, actually causes some students
to have learning difficulties.
"Class Warfare: Besieged Schools, Bewildered Parents,
Betrayed Kids and the Attack on Excellence" by J. Martin Rochester
The author is "The Curators' Distinguished Teaching Professor of Political Science"
at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and winner of their "Chancellor's
Award for Excellence in Teaching at UM-St. Louis." But he is also a Dad.
And in that dual role, he is well-suited to describe the abandonment
of rigor and excellence in education in well-appointed suburban schools.
Two quotes about "Class Warfare":
"Anyone under the illusion that America's suburban
public schools are doing fine and that our education crisis is
confined to inner city classrooms must read this book.
Martin Rochester expertly reveals the mediocrity that afflicts
the nation's high-status suburban schools, too."
-- Chester Finn, former assistant secretary, U.S. DOE
"Few books about education are as deeply researched or as
lively as this one. Professor Rochester writes with verve,
clarity, and accuracy about American schools and the faulty
ideas of those who control them -- ideas that must change if our
schools are to improve. I hope this forceful and fascinating
book will help change the climate of educational ideas.
It's a must-read for parents and policy makers alike."
-- E.D. Hirsch, Jr., founder of the
The Core Knowledge Foundation
"The War Against Excellence : The Rising Tide of Mediocrity in America's Middle Schools"
by Cheri Pierson Yecke, Minnesota Education Commissioner
Radical activists do not see the American middle school as an
organization to impart academic knowledge, but as an instrument
through which they can force social change. Yecke, an experienced
teacher and administrator, shows how these activists have implemented
their plans and endangered the education of all middle school
children--especially those who are gifted.
"10 Traits of Highly Successful Schools:
How You Can Know If Your School Is a Good One" by Dr. Elaine McEwan
Stanley Pruss, a school board member in Oak Brook, writes:
As a school board member as well as a parent and taxpayer, I really
appreciate Elaine's latest book. I meet her for the first time at a
lecture she gave recently, but have been reading her for some time.
This latest book has an excellant list of resources including an
outstanding model mission statement and a chapter on math that I'm
showing to all the fellow members of the math curriculum review
committee I am on.
"Making Sense of Research:
What's Good, What's Not, and How To Tell the Difference " by Elaine K. McEwan and Patrick J. McEwan
"Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas" by Thomas Sowell
The Library Journal review says that Sowell's book is
"a treatise on the failure of American education--elementary, secondary, and
college levels--to prepare today's students for the future. Among the many causes
of this failure are the poor intellectual capabilities of elementary and
secondary school teachers; the politicizing of education, especially the emphasis
on world-saving agendas; the affective approach to curriculum (striving to
reshape the attitudes of students); and the presence of "assorted dogmas,"
including multicultural diversity, relevance, and educating the whole person. All
these causes and more are clearly discussed, with some frightening true-life
examples, to illustrate that students aren't learning the basics because the
basics aren't being taught."
"Engaging Minds: Motivation and Learning in America's Schools" by David A. Goslin
Education researcher and reformer John Stone gives this report on this book:
"The central thesis of this book is very simple: Increasing the
engagement of students in learning is the key to increasing academic
achievement and therefore the productivity of the U.S. educational
system. Surprisingly, there have been relatively few attempts to
explicitly consider the things that affect students' engagement in
the learning process and, more important, what might be done to
increase engagement and motivation in learning. This is especially so
in light of the evidence that a significant proportion of elementary
and secondary school students are only minimally engaged in learning
in Americaís schools. The experience of the last two decades provides
ample evidence in support of this proposition."
"The Academic Achievement Challenge:
What Really Works in the Classroom?" by Jeanne Chall
(New York: The Guilford Press, 2000)
This is a gentle, pleasant, inviting book with a blockbuster
message: that the best way for kids to learn is with a structured,
Some of the comments about this book are just spectacular:
"It would create a revolution in American education
if every teacher, parent, and school board member were to read this book."
Chall's own conclusion is sharp and to-the-point:
"The capstone work of a great scholar, this book
synthesizes all the relevant research to show that student-centered
teaching does not live up to its education-school billing.
Rather it is teacher-centered education which leads to greater excellence
--Prof. E. D. Hirsch, Core Knowledge Foundation
"I would urge any parent or educational official who finds themselves
in opposition to progressive policy or practice to bring this brief
volume to the attention of their opponents and to that of any other
interested parties--especially members of the media.
I would not be able to suggest a more succinct, authoritative source.
I hope you will bring Dr. Chall's final report to the attention of
everyone who is interested in educational improvement:
Parent, teachers, and officials."
-- J. E. Stone, Education Consumers ClearingHouse
"Based on research, history, and experience, my first recommendation
is that schools ... put a greater
emphasis on a traditional, teacher-centered education. Traditional,
teacher-centered schools, according to research and practice, are
more effective than progressive, student-centered schools for the
academic achievement of most children."
"The Educated Child" by William Bennett, Chester Finn, and John Cribb
The message is a good one: We must restore academic priorities in schools,
challenge kids with meaty, intriguing content, and throw out
educational babble and day-care games that consume far too much of our children's
time in school.
"What's At Stake in the K-12 Standards Wars:
A Primer for Educational Policy Makers" edited by Sandra Stotsky
This promises to be a very important book: it is a collection of papers
on the function, impact and lapses of national and state standards
in science, mathematics, history, economics, and the English language arts.|
The publisher's description states, "These scholars are writing
not for other scholars in their field but for those who help
shape K-12 educational policy-legislators, members of boards
of education, and those who teach courses in government or
education policy making. The purpose of this collection is
to clarify what is at stake in the standards wars and in
standards-based systemic reform."
"Dumbing Down Our Kids" by Charles J. Sykes
The subtitle is "Why American children feel good about themselves
but can't read, write or add."
Sykes isn't talking about inner city schools only, he's
talking about all kinds of schools all over the country.
That includes very well-thought-of schools in well-financed
suburban school districts. Yes, like yours.|
This book provides a rich "in the trenches" view of the disasters that
so-called "reform" has wrought on our schools.
It provides an interesting balance between case studies of some
awful results of progressivist practices, and a dissection of each of the
major tenets of this mindset. Those case studies can be a call-to-action
for change, and the discussion of progressivist methods provides a good
working background for activism to restore substance to the classroom.
"Doomed to Fail: The Built-In Defects of American Education" by Paul A. Zoch
review by George Clowes in the School Reform News:
Paul A. Zoch's book, Doomed to Fail, clearly, concisely, and
convincingly lays out the reasons why K-12 education in the United
States produces high school seniors who score well below their peers
in other countries. Yet those who pick up this book expecting a
denunciation of public schools and public education will be
disappointed, because the defects he describes are defects of
educational philosophy, not structure. ...
From a review from
San Diego Technical Books:
That is the heart of Zoch's book, in which he describes the
transition from education requiring disciplined effort to what is
known today as "Progressive Education." The Progressive philosophy
has three belief strands, Zoch notes:
- Behaviorism. The teacher, expertly trained in pedagogical science,
elicits appropriate responses from helpless, passive students.
- Compulsion-free learning. Students learn only what they feel they
need to; compelling them to do more may inflict grave psychological
- "Fun." Since learning must be fun, academic subjects are given short
shrift because mastering them requires disciplined effort.
Zoch, who once taught at a public high school in Texas and now
teaches at a private academy there, introduces this censure of
progressive education by tracing a path of influence from William
James to Howard Gardner. He argues that because today's public-school
students are perceived as incapable of high achievement outside of
their own preferred modalities or learning styles, it is unfair to
hold teachers accountable for student failure. He concludes that
public educators should emulate systems which demand that students
stretch themselves to learn material they find difficult and that
then test students on standardized outcomes. He identifies Catholic
schools and systems in some other countries (Japan, China, Germany,
and France) as potential models. This book joins other recent titles,
Diane Ravitch's Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reforms
and Kieran Egan's Getting It Wrong from the Beginning, in its
criticism of progressive approaches to education. Zoch's specific
focus on the strengths of traditional teacher-centered vs.
progressive child-centered education is better articulated in
Jeanne S. Chall's The Academic Achievement Challenge.
"Ready or Not: Why Treating Children
As Small Adults Endangers Their Future - and Ours" by Kay S. Hymowitz
"Liberation's Children: Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age" by Kay S. Hymowitz
"Saving Childhood : Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence"
by Michael Medved and Diane Medved, PhD
I loved this wonderful book that brilliantly captures the "assault on innocence",
ranging from terrifying TV shows for kids, schools that introduce
horrific styories of sex and drugs way too early, and the overall
dumbed-downed approach to problems and their solutions offered by schools.
(I have a feeling that the Medveds would be properly horrified by the
"Caudill Awards" books (click for the whole scary story)
pushed on kids in Illinois public schools.)
Michael Medved is the well-known movie critic (and critic of Hollywood),
and his wife Diane Medved is a psychologist.
"The Myth of the Common School" by Charles L. Glenn
From George Clowes interview with the author, Charles L. Glenn,
published in the School Reform News of May 2003:
"New England already had close to universal literacy before the coming
of the common school. Horace Mann's concerns were not with providing
schooling but with making schooling an effective instrument for
"Getting It Wrong From the Beginning:
Our Progressivist Inheritance From Herbert Spencer, John Dewey and Jean Piaget"
by Kieran Egan
Another history of the progressivist decline of our schools. Covers several fresh and compelling
views of this story, but is generally not as detailed or as authoritative as Diane Ravitch's
masterful Left Back.
"John Dewey and Decline of American Education:
How the Patron Saint of Schools Has Corrupted Teaching and Learning"
by Henry T. Edmondson III
Edmondson ... persuasively demonstrates that Dewey has had an insidious
effect on American democracy through the baneful impact his core ideas
have had in our nation's classrooms.
Few people are pleased with the performance of our public schools.
Eschewing polemic in favor of understanding, Edmondson's study of
the "patron saint" of those schools sheds much-needed light on both
the ideas that bear much responsibility for their decline and the
alternative principles that could spur their recovery.
"What's Gone Wrong in America's Classrooms"
edited by Williamson M. Evers (Hoover Institution Press Publication, 445)
I've only skimmed this, but it's intriguing.
This is a very academic but thorough treatment of different approaches to education.
If nothing else, the book makes it clear that the progressivist philosophy
that pervades American education is but one method.
"Who's Teaching Your Children?"
by Vivian Troen and Katherine C. Boles
(To be reviewed)
"Bad Teachers: The Essential Guide for Concerned Parents"
by Guy Strickland
One parent reports:|
Is your child being insulted, humiliated and demeaned by a rotten teacher?
Our son was, thanks to a school that refused to do anything about one lethal teacher
whose awful treatment of kids was well-known to them for years.
A year later, we were still helping our son recover from that experience.
This book may help you to see the signs earlier than we saw them,
and if so, it also will tell you what you
need to do to protect your child against an incompetent teacher.
"You're a Teacher ... So Act Like One! -- Improving Your 'Stage Presence' in the Classroom" by Daniel Tricarico
detailed information, table of contents, and sample pages are available at iUniverse.
Ed schools have been so mesmerized by "student-centered" illusions that they largely
have forgotten how to show prospective teachers how to teach.
Here's a book that provides at least a start, by giving suggestions on how to deliver
a lively, interesting classroom presentation. Here's a capsule from the
"It has been said that, as teachers, we perform in front of a live audience
for five periods every day of the week. The metaphor is apt.
We are on the boards more times a week than an actor in a
Broadway show. And yet, teachers are never taught the importance of
performance techniques -- projection, energy, inflection,
pacing, timing -- which allow those Broadway thespians to awe their auduiences
night after night. Teachers might do well, then, to develop the kind of
training in performance style and 'stage presence' available to actors. ...
What a powerful approach to the classroom."
"New Schools for a New Century: The Redesign of Urban Education"
edited by Diane Ravitch and Joseph Viteritti
(to be reviewed)
"The War Against Boys:
How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men" by Christina Hoff Sommers
I loved this book's treatment of the realities for boys today, especially
the unequal and inappropriate handling they are subjected to in
most modern schools. The book is called "The War Against Boys"
and we might say that there are really two facets to this book, the "war"
section and the "boys" section.
Amazon's review says, in part:
"It's a bad time to be a boy in America," writes Christina Hoff Sommers.
Boys are less likely than girls to go to college or do their homework.
They're more likely to cheat on tests, wind up in detention, or drop out of
school. Yet it's "the myth of the fragile girl," according to Sommers,
that has received the lion's share of attention recently... When boys
are discussed at all, it's in the context of how to modify their
antisocial behavior -- i.e., how to make them more like girls.
This book tells the story of how it has become fashionable to
attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children. It is a
story of how we are turning against boys and forgetting a simple truth:
that the energy, competitiveness, and corporal daring of normal,
decent males is responsible for much of what is right in the world.
No one denies that boys' aggressive tendencies must be checked and
channeled in constructive ways. Boys need discipline, respect, and
moral guidance. Boys need love and tolerant understanding. They do
not need to be pathologized.
For MUCH more about the very disturbing decline of boys in schools,
including out list of "22 School Practices That May Harm Boys", go to our page
Illinois Loop: Gender Bias
"Government Nannies" by Cathy Duffy
(to be reviewed)
"Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture"
edited by Katharine Washburn and John Thorton
Only a part of this book is about education, but perhaps much of what else
the editors include under the rubric "dumbing down" is ultimately the
result of dumbed-down schools. Besides schools themselves, essays in this
collection discuss museums, art, media, religion, ethnicity,
and even a surprisingly informative article about the history of recipes.|
The book makes for compelling reading, but it does tend to suffer from two faults:
First, there is an overwhelming New York parochialism pervading much of the book.
Many of the authors seem to think that the New York Times and the New Yorker
define the world. Second, many of the essays tend to be on the suffocating side,
with turns of phrase, exotic vocabulary, and strained metaphors, less designed
to illuminate and more intended to whack us over the head that these aren't
examples of the dumbed-down culture.
The Washinton Post has provided
Chapter One of this book on its website. As it happens, that chapter is one
of six in the book on problems in education.
"Valuing Useless Knowledge: An Anthropological Inquiry into the Meaning of Liberal Education"
by Robert Bates Graber
You know how some books go beyond interesting to become real charmers?
Well, here's one! Buy several: Add one to the gift certificate you give to a great teacher
at the end of the year,
give one to the college student you know who is dithering over
courses and majors, or just take one with on an afternoon at the beach.
In his little volume (6 x 4.5 inches, and 80 pages), Graber tackles a big question:
Why do we treasure knowledge for its own sake? He starts, tongue in cheek,
by defining liberal arts as "essentially those areas of knowledge in which
practical-minded parents hope their children will not major." From this light
beginning, Graber takes us on a historical journey to understand why we place such
a high value on learning. We visit John Henry Cardinal Newman, who tells us that
knowledge is "not only an instrument, but an end." In stark contrast, we encounter
the eclectic and disagreeable Thorstein Veblen, who argued that "useless knowledge" was
a form of "conspicuous consumption" (a phrase he coined) whose only value was
to display the wealth required to waste such amounts of time.
Taking us even further back, all the way to ancient Greece, Graber tells us of the
very, very serious conceptual split of "mind" and "matter", and why this
understanding is of profound importance in understanding such issues as the persistence
of slavery, the nature of the charges against Galileo, and the importance
of the human hand in the reactions to Darwin.
Graber concludes with a view of how modern science re-integrates mind and matter,
and establishes learning for its own sake as firmly in the realm
of the most human of undertakings.
Enjoy this little treasure!
"The Conspiracy of Ignorance : The Failure of American Public Schools" by Martin L. Gross
(Paperback edition to be released soon!)
Gross does another fine recap of the crisis in American schools.
It's not as compelling as McEwan's book,
not as substantive as Hirsch's, and not as scary as the Sykes book.|
But Gross does make a very considerable contribution: In "Conspiracy
of Ignorance" he plucks apart the image of the "masters" and "doctors"
who run modern urban school districts.
Here are some very juicy excerpts from Gross!
"The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn" by Diane Ravitch
"Before Anton Chekhov and Mark Twain can be used in school readers and exams,
they must be vetted by a bias and sensitivity committee. An anthology used in
Tennessee schools changed 'By God!' to 'By gum!' and 'My God!' to 'You don't mean it.'
The New York State Education Department omitted mentioning Jews in an Isaac Bashevis
Singer story about prewar Poland, or blacks in Annie Dillard's memoir of growing up
in a racially mixed town. California rejected a reading book because
The Little Engine That Could was male.
Diane Ravitch maintains that America's students are compelled to read insipid
texts that have been censored and bowdlerized, issued by publishers who willingly
cut controversial material from their books -- a case of the bland leading the bland."
"Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism"
by Paul A. Boghossian
Some Indian traditions hold that native peoples have lived in the Americas ever since
their ancestors first emerged onto the surface of the earth from a subterranean world of spirits.
Is this view every bit as valid as the prevailing theory of migrations from Asia over the frozen Bering Sea?
Are both these views equivalent, merely different "belief systems"?
The academic world has been plagued in recent years by such debates on truth and
knowledge. In this book, Paul Boghossian dismisses
relativist claims that there is no such thing as objective truth or knowledge,
but only truth or knowledge from a particular perspective. He demonstrates
clearly that such claims don't even make sense.
This short, lucid, witty book shows that philosophy provides rock-solid support for common
sense against the relativists; it will prove provocative reading throughout the
discipline and beyond.
"Core Virtues : A Literature-Based Program in Character Education" by Mary Beth Klee
Description from Amazon:
The Core Virtues Program is a practical, nonsectarian approach to
character education on a kindergarten through sixth-grade level that
involves approximately twenty minutes per day of reading and
discussion. Its goals are the cultivation of character through such
virtues as respect, courage, diligence, patience, responsibility,
compassion, perseverance, faithfulness, and more.
Core Virtues includes: a strategy for implementation; a
month-by-month sequence for the teaching of virtues school-wide on a
three year cycle; grade specific goals for kindergarten to sixth
grade; reproducible definitions of the virtues keyed to various grade
levels; connections with the Core Knowledge sequence; and a critical
resource guide to literature organized by virtue (over 600 entries by
The author of this book, Mary Beth Klee, is the founder of Crossroads
Academy, a K-8 independent day school in Lyme, New Hampshire. A graduate of the University
of Notre Dame, Dr. Klee holds an Ed.M. from Boston University and a
Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis
University. She is a consultant for the Core Knowledge Foundation,
Pearson Education Group, and Link Institute.
"Public Education as a Business: Real Costs and Accountability"
by Myron Lieberman and Charlene Haar
Description from Amazon:
"This work covers details about the real cost of public education -- one
of America's biggest industries. It shows that government statistics on
the costs of public education sustainability understate the actual costs to taxpayers."
For more info, read the
review of this book by Brian Nelson, in the Summer 2004 issue of Education Next.
"The Thinking Crisis: The Disconnections of Teaching and Learning in Today's Schools"
by T. Ellen Hill and Joel Shatzky
The book is described as "a challenge to the educational establishment
to recognize the importance of learning-centered teaching instead of
student-centered teaching which is the present trend."
The authors' description is this:
The objectives of "The Thinking Crisis" are: to examine the reasons
for the decline in the quality of student writing by what is
taught -- and learned -- in high school; to demonstrate the consequences
of this decline by examining current student writing in college;
to compare this writing with student writing of twenty years ago;
to suggest ways in which this "disconnection" between what a teacher
teaches and what a student needs to learn can be ameliorated.
We believe that this book is unique in its approach to problems
that we see in student writing today in that it neither advocates
nor rejects the present pedagogy in the schools; but it argues
that this pedagogy be properly implemented. While many of the
ideas advanced today for improving writing are sound,
they are often misinterpreted and poorly taught. We also argue
that the lowering of the level of student reading by the
general abandonment of classic texts in the curriculum has
contributed to the decline in thinking, reading and writing.
"The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home"
by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
This book provides valuable resources, tips, schedules, and ideas
for any family attempting to provide a traditional
classical background to their children, a learning adventure
which is provided in few schools today.
The focus of this excellent and extremely popular book is
"classical" education, the historic approach to education,
in which a student first masters the "basics" (the "grammar") and then proceeds
to thoughtful integration and understanding ("logic" and "rhetoric").
It worked for centuries, and it works for many homeschooling families
and the fortunate students of a handful of schools today. This
book tells how to do it.
"The Trivium: The Liberal Arts Of Logic, Grammar, And Rhetoric"
by Miriam Joseph, C.S.C
Description from Amazon:|
Opening the door for beginners who seek a thorough grounding in the
first arts of human understanding, this book explains the nature of
logic, grammar, and rhetoric-the three of the seven liberal arts-and
how they relate to one another. In Renaissance universities, the
trivium (literally, the crossing of three part way) formed the
essence of the liberal arts curriculum. Examined are topics such as
the nature and function of language, distinguishing general grammar
from special grammar, the study of logic and its relationship to
grammar and rhetoric, and applying the concepts of logic, grammar,
and rhetoric to literary works.
Read more at the publisher's website.
Read the first chapter (PDF).
Testing and Assessment
"Defending Standardized Testing"
by Richard P. Phelps (Editor)
Editorial reviews cited by Amazon:
Howard Wainer, Journal of Educational Measurement:
"Very much worth buying and reading."
"Easy to read ...provides a balanced approach ...help[s] the
reader understand current debates within the community of testing experts"
"Kill the Messenger: The War on Standardized Testing"
by Richard P. Phelps with a forward by Herbert J. Walberg
This book, released in May 2003, has generated a tremendous positive response.
The author, Dr. Richard Phelps, provides details of the book on his website,
Kill the Messenger.
"Testing Student Learning, Evaluating Teaching Effectiveness" by Williamson M. Evers, Herbert J. Walberg
More than ever, parents want to know how their children are achieving
and how their children's school ranks compared to others. This book
shows how defective tests and standards and a lack of accountability
cause American students to fall behind those of other
countries -- despite our schools' receiving nearly the world's highest
levels of per-student spending. The book takes on common objections
to testing and reveals why they are false.
The book also presents several specific constructive uses for tests,
including diagnosing children's learning difficulties and procedures
for solving them, measuring the impact of curriculum on specific
aspects of achievement, and assessing teachers' strengths and
"Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America's Teachers"
by Rita Kramer
(click for info and sample text from iUniverse)
This all-time classic is now back in print!!
Other books tell about the bizarre premises, concepts and methods
in schools today. But where on earth do these ideas come from?
And why do administrators and teachers believe this stuff?
The short answer is: ed schools. Rather than being a model of scholarship,
today's ed schools waste away time with endless prattle about theories
Rita Kramer toured the country, spending a good deal of time at each of a number
of ed schools. She visited prestigious eastern schools, mainstream schools,
and everything in between. Kramer reports on everything she saw: vapid looks
of the students, meaningless classroom activities, faculty members who loathe
the goals that most people have about schools, and grades, assessments
and final degrees devoid of any substantive value.
This book tells a vital part of the story in understanding what's wrong
with our schools, and it does so in an engaging personal way.
It's just what's needed to give a new teacher a healthy skepticism
about "progressive" trends!
"Forgotten Heroes of American Education: The Great Tradition of Teaching Teachers"
edited by by Diane Ravitch and J. Wesley Null
interview with Education News, co-editor Wesley Null said of this book,|
"We have highlighted eight forgotten heroes, including William C.
Bagley, Isaac Kandel, and Edward Austin Sheldon. They deserve to be
remembered because they challenged mainstream thinking about
educational practice and theory. They did not win the battles they
engaged in, which is why they have been forgotten today. They deserve
to be remembered because they argued on behalf of a well-educated
teaching profession, a coherent academic curriculum, and clearly
defined standards. ...
I am concerned that we have lost a solid philosophical foundation for
education in general and for curriculum in particular. I believe this
happened because the profession of teaching bought into harmful
theories -- typically referred to as Progressive -- that diminished the
value of teachers, curriculum, and standards. ...
The issue here is curriculum for teaching teachers, and the heroes we
have highlighted in this book offer us a coherent, morally
defensible, and intellectually substantive vision for teacher
education curriculum. Restoring a sound philosophical foundation for
democratic education only can take place through solid programs for
"The Feel-Good Curriculum : The Dumbing-Down of America's Kids in the Name of Self-Esteem"
by Maureen Stout PhD
This book is quite different than its title might suggest:
this is anything but a retread of the same litany of the ills of our schools.
There's no doubt of Stout's vigorous condemnation of the affective, touchie-feelie approach to
education and its devastating impact on curriculum and kids.
But the surprise is how she arrives at this conclusion
seemingly in complete isolation from the many other books on this topic, such
as most of the other books on this web page.|
Stout is a pedigreed education
insider (with a real Ph.D.), and part of her writings indicate
she has no wish to completely abandon this background: at one point she
favorably mentions Alfie Kohn
(whose writings have been used to justify much of what Stout condemns),
she talks about fellow ed school faculty members with some
degree of sympathy, and she can't understand why some of her teacher-wannabees
are bored by her class on the philosophy of education. She laments
the gross lack of critical thinking skills of the students in one of the
teacher ed class she teaches, blaming it squarely on their
own progressivist educations, but at another point she positions
critical thinking as a putative opponent of content knowledge. She only mentions
E. D. Hirsch once in passing, and then in a context that suggests she hasn't really
read the book of his that she references or anything else of his.
But perhaps it is because of this naivete about the outcry over education,
that her thorough research and writing carry such a very powerful and
convincing force. When she attacks student-centered programs,
self-esteem, discovery learning, values clarification, student narcissism
and counter-productive gender and race initiatives, she is not merely one
of the horde attacking the castle walls from the outside, rather she is on the inside
complaining about her own camp's leadership.
The strength of this approach is quickly evident: she uses the conferences, journals,
task forces and other media within the ed establishment to make her case.
This may be the most palatable approach for reaching administrators and teachers
who are beginning to have doubts about their training in progressivist education.
Stout demolishes many of the premises and practices of schools today.
Her main focus is the affective mindset of the establishment, and its obsession
with self-esteem as a goal in itself rather than as the result of
genuine accomplishment. She does a masterful job ripping apart multiple
intelligences, emotional quotients, values clarification, and the whole "hidden
curriculum" behind public education.
But Stout never quite follows the problem to its ultimate conclusions.
Despite the "Dumbing-Down" phrase in the title, Stout barely mentions the
curricular damage from all of the psychobabble (except for a too-brief
attack on whole language). She mentions math in passing without any seeming
awareness of the nationwide "math wars" controversy. She mentions standards but
there is no dissection of how the standards movement has been gutted and undermined
in some states by the anti-knowledge faction. She rails about the rampant
assignments in self-absorption kids are given (my family, my dog, what I want),
but says nothing about the substantive content knowledge in history and geography
that is squeezed out in the process. In a teasing, almost-there section, she
links the self-esteem fad and watery curricula to rising and more vicious violence; but
she does not (or dares not) go the final step, to ponder the possible connections between the
early 1990s progressivist reforms in Littleton grade schools and the "death-ed"
classes at Columbine High School
and the events that happened there years later.
All in all, Stout provides a very fresh and powerful spin on what, to most of us,
is a familiar story. Using fresh evidence and a fresh perspective, she destroys
the premises of progressivism, and does so in an insider's way, a way that might
be more compelling to the administrators and teachers who
could be forces for change.
"Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled
-- And More Miserable than Ever Before"
by Dr. Jean Twenge
a review by Ashley Herzog:
"In her new book, 'Generation Me: Why Today's
Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- And More
Miserable than Ever Before,' Dr. Jean Twenge ...
makes clear the difference between self-esteem and
self-respect. Self-respect -- a value taught to older generations -- is
achieved gradually, by behaving morally and accomplishing things.
Self-esteem is an entitlement. As Twenge explains, 'most
[self-esteem] programs encourage children to feel good about
themselves for no particular reason.' ...
"The self-esteem movement has wreaked
havoc on schools. ... One popular method tells teachers not to
correct students' spelling or grammar, arguing that kids should be
'independent spellers' so they can be treated as 'individuals.'
Elementary school students spend hours creating 'All About Me'
projects ... but less time learning basic skills.
Of course, children have no motivation to work harder when their
schools outlaw competition and celebrate mediocrity.
"While the self-esteem movement hasn't made children any smarter, it
has made them more self-centered, manipulative, and indulgent.
There is one personality trait that is definitely linked to
achievement, and that is self-control. Although 'discipline' and
'obedience' have become dirty words in the education establishment,
people with high levels of self-control are the most likely to
succeed. They earn higher grades and finish more years of education,
and they're less likely to abuse drugs or have children out of
wedlock. As Twenge says, 'Self-control predicts all of those things
researchers had hoped self-esteem would, but hasn't.'"
"Education's Smoking Gun:
How Teachers' Colleges Have Destroyed Education in America"
by Reginald Damerell
This book from the mid-80s is out of print now, but you may find it
at your local library.|
The "smoking gun" in the title
refers to the search for the ultimate cause of the anti-intellectual,
fun and games approach to education. Damerell (like many others)
pins the rap firmly on ed schools. He was a top creative person in a large
New York ad agency, who was lured to join the faculty of an ed school. What
he found was a shocking lack of scholarship.
Damerell is at his most entertaining when telling the first person story of Bill Cosby's
acquiring of an Ed.D. degree. It becomes clear that Cosby's work for the degree
was pathetically shallow, but not much more so than many other Ed.D. efforts.
Much of this book is devoted to specifics (events, methods, personalities)
that Damerell encountered in his own ed school. As such, it's an interesting
slice-of-life as yet another person discovers the truth behind American
education. But overall, Rita Kramer's "Ed School Follies" is a much more
complete dissection of the problem, and Maureen Stout's "The Feel-Good Curriculum"
more directly attacks the shallowness and affective teaching mantras of ed schools
"Managing Unmanageable Students: Practical Solutions for Administrators"
by Elaine McEwan and Mary Damer
(details to come)
"The Teacher Unions" by Myron Lieberman
Publisher's description: "A powerful expose on how the NEA and AFT use their power
to smother desperately needed educational innovations."
(to be reviewed)
"NEA: The Trojan Horse in American Education" by Samuel Blumenthal
Dissection of the most powerful education union and lobby, the National
Education Association, along with considerations of political bias
in classes, and the history of public education in the U.S.
(to be reviewed)
"The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education"
by Peter Brimelow
(to be reviewed)
"Power Grab: How the National Education Association Is Betraying Our Children"
by G. Gregory Moo
(to be reviewed)
Parents, Committees and Choices
"The Politics of the PTA"
by Charlene K. Haar
See a review of this book in
Taking the Parent out of the National PTA
by George A. Clowes, School Reform News, February 2003.
Here is a review of this book, written by Richard P. Phelps,
"Kill the Messenger: The War on Standardized Testing":
The organization you thought you knew
August 14, 2003
Former school teacher and senatorial candidate, and current
President of the Education Policy Institute, Charlene Haar, relates a
thorough and fascinating story of an organization we all thought we
knew, but probably did not. Haar traces the origins of The National
Congress of Parents and Teachers (PTA) to the first assemblage of the
National Congress of Mothers at the end of the 19th century, a time
when schooling, and the status of women, were strikingly different
than they are now. She then follows the evolution of the organization
as parents, and later teachers, and still later the teachers' unions,
are added to the mix.
Haar demonstrates how the better organized and more powerful elements
of the coalition - the teachers' unions - were able to steer the
organization's mission over time along a path they preferred, as was,
perhaps, inevitable. Haar reminds us, however, that teacher and
parent interests do not always coincide and, indeed, seem to have
grown more divergent over time. Ironically, however, the PTA's
continuing steadfast support of the public education status quo has
generated only meager success, for example, in terms of favorable
legislation passed in the U.S. Congress, where the PTA has spent a
substantial proportion of its resources in lobbying efforts.
Meanwhile, parent membership in the PTA continues steadily to
The Politics of the PTA is meticulously well-written and very
"Cloning of the American Mind" by B.K. Eakman
Part IV of this book should be read by anyone who has ever sat
of a school committee or is thinking about it. Even more urgently,
it should be read by all members of all school boards which are being
told that some recommendation or another was developed by a teacher
or parent-teacher committee.|
I participated in two committees like this in our local
public schoolsw, and found that
the whole process was deliberately manipulated to cultivate an intended
results, while suppressing dissent or discussion.
Eakman warns that such "rigged consensus building" thwarts opposition
or original thinking, while enshrining and preserving the status quo.
It is a powerful tool for manipulating public opinion in such a way
to gain apparent approval for dubious management directions.
These manipulative techniques are both employed with, and taught to,
students in ed schools. By the time that someone leaves ed school with
administration credentials, they are well-trained to set up
the same dangerous practices in the districts where they are employed.
Beverly Eakman describes how rigged consensus-building is
covered in her book:
"[This section] focuses on this
issue, details the various methods used, who uses them and where they
originated. In fact, various government agenncies actually offer a
course in "change agentry." ... The
rigged consesus is the means by which programs and policies that
originators at the state, federal or foundation (through grants) level
know won't be well received are moved past the naysayers and are
instituted anyway. It's kind of interesting to watch, as long as you're
not on the receiving end. Since my research on the book, I've watched
it work among church hierarchies, in community meetings, focus groups
and PTAs. Because of the interest in Part IV, I started being asked to
go all over the country giving not just seminars, but teach-ins, if you
will, where I bring groups up on state to practice countering the
"consensus" techniques. One of the problems is that the less well
educated our population becomes, thanks in large part to the fact that
many disciplines like rhetoric, philosophy, and debate have been removed
from the curriculum, people do not know how to defend themselves against
professional manipulators. Yet, as I show in my book, the basic concept
of psychological manipulation/deception was known as far back as 400
b.c. A book by a Chinese general that surfaced in the 1970s and was
translated proves the point.
"Common Sense School Reform"
by Frederick M. Hess
Here are excerpts from a
review of this book by Justin Torres, Weekly Standard, September 13, 2004:
Common Sense School Reform is uncompromising. Hess, an
education-policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute, takes
direct aim at gauzy notions and sentiments that divert us from
enacting needed reforms. Many will find shocking his direct attack on
the idea that teachers are doing all they can to improve student
achievement. Bunk, he says. In fact, while many teachers are working
as hard as they can, many aren't.
Many are themselves so poorly educated they aren't up to the task of
raising student achievement. And those who are up to the task still
need external incentives--performance measures, bonuses for improved
performance, and penalties for falling short--that Americans take for
granted in other professions. "Educators, for better or worse, are a
lot like everybody else," Hess writes. "Some educators are
passionately committed to their craft, highly skilled, and will be so
regardless of rewards or guidance, but most--like most engineers and
attorneys and journalists and doctors--will be more effective when
held accountable for performance."
Common Sense School Reform is shot through with hard-nosed realism.
Unlike some proponents of high standards and increased
accountability, Hess admits that such measures can have the
unfortunate effect of narrowing the curriculum and limiting the
additional touches--a focus on science or the arts, say--that can
help distinguish schools and provide the personalizing touches that
parents crave. (There is already some evidence that the No Child Left
Behind Act, with its relentless focus on reading and math and,
eventually, science, is crowding out art, history, and
For Hess, the answer to this curricular narrowing is school choice,
designed to allow parents to choose a tailored curriculum that
operates in a larger framework of high standards and accountability.
Choice will also help to spur school improvement by rewarding
innovators who can deliver educational success--if choice rewards
popular schools with additional resources and punishes persistently
low-achieving schools with closure or reconstitution. (The second
half of Hess's formulation, closing down schools that lose students
in a competitive marketplace, has not yet been tried in any of the
voucher programs presently in operation.)
It's a beguiling vision, and certainly one that would be a vast
improvement over the present system, which actually punishes success
by placing strains on popular, over-enrolled schools. As Hess points
out, an innovative and dynamic principal who attracts a hundred extra
students may be assigned two or three additional teaching slots and
may get a little discretionary money to spend on new programs or
additional teacher training. But most of the important decisions--who
to hire; whether to put resources into physical plant, new personnel,
or new books and teaching aids; the length of the school day; the
hours teachers work--are dictated by collective bargaining agreements
or are handed down from the district office. That offers little
incentive to innovators, and a growing student body becomes a
headache, not an indicator of success.
"Voucher Wars: Waging the Legal Battle over School Choice" by Clint Bolick
"Clint Bolick has written an exciting and fascinating account of his experience as a lawyer defending school choice. In the process, he provides a comprehensive history of the school choice movement from the 1990 enactment of the nation's first urban school program in Wisconsin to the 2002 Supreme Court decision that established the constitutionality of voucher programs including religious schools. Clint makes clear how high the stakes are for the youngsters in low-income families condemned to failing government schools and how much their parents are willing to sacrifice to rescue them. A true human interest tale."
"Clint Bolick is the nation's leading attorney for parental choice and education reform. No one knows this legal battle better than Clint, and his successes are victories for both our education system and our children."
--William J. Bennett, Co-Director, Empower America; Former Secretary of Education
"Clint Bolick is the new Thurgood Marshall. Marshall litigated the end of legal apartheid; Bolick the demolition of educational townships."
--John Gardner, Milwaukee School Board
"Education and Capitalism: How Overcoming Our Fear of Markets and Economics Can Improve America's Schools"
by Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast
"School Choices: True and False" by John Merrifield
Here's a slim yet compelling look at market choice for education.
John Merrifield argues that today's very limited school choice programs are
nothing like the "free market in education" envisioned four decades ago by
early proponents of school choice. Rather, they are mired in false
alternatives, petty distinctions, and diminished vision.
Merrifield argues for the reformation of the school choice alternative
and the eventual establishment of a freely competitive market for education,
"Market Education, The Unknown History" by Andrew J. Coulson
(to be reviewed)
"Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice" by Sol Stern
A Booklist review says: "When his son Jonathan was accepted at New York's premier
elementary school, P.S. 87, city-schools-educated Stern presumed the boy was off to a good start.
He was, though not as good a start as Stern's own in 1941. In the intervening decades,
the teachers' union (a 1950s innovation) and a mushrooming, politicized education
bureaucracy had rendered most city schools ungovernable and scholastically ineffective."
"Educational Freedom in Eastern Europe" by Charles L. Glenn
(to be reviewed)
Amazon says this gives "the story of the Communist takeover
of education and the recent revival of educational freedom
in post-Communist societies."
"Public Education: An Autopsy" by Myron Lieberman
Lieberman has produced a unusually clear and thorough guide to the
critical failings of "public education", or at least as that phrase
is used in the United States today. He presents a case for marketplace
solutions to these problems, and parent choice.
A remarkable feature of Lieberman's writing is his highly orderly and
logical style, which gives his arguments strength and substance.
"Reading Instruction for Students Who Are at Risk or Have Disabilities"
by William D. Bursuck and Mary Damer
While the first chapter captures the very essence of teaching reading, the rest
of the text is an absolute gold mine of additional research based instructional
strategies appropriate for the college student, the first year teacher, and the
veteran reading teacher. I wish I had written it!
From the publisher:
-- Pam Matlock, Murray State University
Organized according to the Reading First categories of reading development and
instruction as presented in the report of the National Reading Panel, this
exciting and timely new text presents teaching strategies for children at-risk,
including children of poverty, children for whom English is not their primary
language, and children with learning and behavioral disabilities. These are the
children No Child Left Behind challenges teachers to serve more effectively.
The book is more than a list of teaching strategies that are
scientifically-validated; the scientifically-validated practices included are
integrated into a systematic teaching process that stresses the use of student
outcome data within authentic classroom contexts to guide practice. The teaching
strategies have been field tested with at-risk children in both rural and urban
teaching settings. Most of the strategies have resulted from work the authors did
in their recent four-year federally-funded model-demonstration grant in which
they have implemented an extensive reading problem prevention model in grades K-3
in three inner-city schools. Thus, the teaching strategies in the book are ones
that the authors implemented every day with at-risk children, not just findings
from research articles.
This book includes:
- Content organized around the five components validated by the National
Reading Panel: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and
- Readers learn how to use DIBELS and other curriculum-based assessment results
for early identification of children at risk of reading failure and to monitor
student progress. A unique feature is using DIBELS assessments to pinpoint
student skill development as they acquire alphabetic principle.
- Accompanying DVD shows teacher explicitly teaching letter sound recognition,
regular word decoding, sight words, multisyllable word reading, passage reading,
vocabulary, and comprehension.
- Text explains how to use Differentiated Instruction to maximize learning for
- Specific strategies are detailed for implementing Response To Intervention
(RTI) multi-tier instruction during the reading block.
- Examines building vocabulary knowledge through direct and indirect teaching
- Comprehension strategies identified by the National Reading Panel that help
students derive meaning from text are emphasized.
- Strategies for individualizing instruction for adolescents and children who
are bilingual and/or ESL are included within each chapter.
- Effective strategies for managing classroom behavior, including instruction
groups are provided so that student behavior does not interfere with reading
Mary Damer is an adjunct professor at the Ohio State University and an
educational consultant and co-founder of Multi-Tier LLC, a consulting company
that works with school districts to increase reading achievement through an
intensive multi-tiered model based on preventing reading failure. A former
teacher, principal, and behavior consultant she is the co-author of Managing
Unmanageable Students: Practical Solutions for Administrators. For four years
she was the field director for Project PRIDE, an OSEP funded multi-tier reading
project in three high poverty urban schools.
William D. Bursuck has more than 35 years experience as a general and special
education teacher in the public schools as well as a university teacher educator.
Although he has written numerous research articles and is a successful grant
writer, Dr. Bursuck takes particular pleasure in providing classroom and future
teachers with practical, evidenced-based strategies to help students with special
needs be more successful in school. He is currently professor in the Department
of Specialized Education Services at the University of North Carolina at
"Teach Them ALL to Read: Catching the Kids Who Fall Through the Cracks" by Elaine McEwan
Review by Mary Damer, July 8, 2002
coordinated an early literacy project for inner city students, I knew
that improving the reading achievement of students in high-poverty,
low-performing schools was going to be difficult and take every
resource and skill my colleagues and I had. Even knowing that
reality, it wasn't until a year after we'd rolled up our shirt
sleeves and started working in three urban schools, that we TRULY
understood the effort behind maintaining fine-tuned curriculum
coordination, retaining the ability to duck sudden blockades from
administration, and motivating teachers to keep employing the
continual academic press needed to develop students' reading and
Elaine McEwan's new book, "Teach Them All to Read: Catching the Kids
Who Fall Through the Cracks," is the first book I've come across that
truly captures all the necessary ingredients needed to create a
reading culture where every student learns to read. I always enjoy
McEwan's vivid metaphors and chatty practical tips which won't
disappoint in her latest book. Thematically, McEwan uses jigsaw
puzzle imagery to help the reader understand the necessary role of
phonological awareness, phonics, spelling, reading a lot, a reading
culture, language, fluency, knowledge, and cognitive strategies. But
wait - this is far more than a book providing information about
effective teaching of reading.
In addition to her years as a principal who dramatically increased
reading performance in her school, McEwan draws upon her years of
experience crisscrossing the country to consult with school districts
attempting to turn around their reading programs surround by a
mishmash of misinformation from the reading establishment that hurls
at them from all directions. A strength of this book is her intimate
experience with Best Practices that often have no research
I should mention that I'm not totally impartial about this book and
have been eagerly waiting for it to come out in print since our
literacy project was used as one example of a comprehensive program,
with interview quotes from some of our staff. Those of you who enjoy
reading Consumer member Nettie Griffin's commentary and descriptions
of her teaching, will also find a section of this book highlighting
These are my three favorite sections of the book:
McEwan set forth the following goals in the preface and these should
provide more information on the book in its totality:
- The section that
identifies common fallacies in the teaching of reading that
frequently surface, boldly exposes myths that have no research basis.
I wish that my local whole language curriculum director would read
about two of her favorite myths: "The Three-Cueing System: A Genuine
Urban Myth" and "The Fat Cat Sat on the Rat is Borrrring and Bad for
- The comprehensive chapter entitled: "Fluency: The Forgotten Piece
of the Puzzle" is a must-read!
- "Why Can't we Just Drop Everything and Read?" details what McEwan
calls "reading in the zone," or the intersection between (a) reading
a lot and (b) reading at an appropriate or somewhat challenging level
of difficulty, and (c) reading with accountability.
- To give you
a short course in the most current reading research regarding how
students learn to read, regardless of age or grade, so that you can
make informed decisions about curriculum and instruction.
- To help
you understand that learning to read is only the first step: students
must also develop fluency, acquire cognitive strategies, and continue
to read a lot to deepen their knowledge and understanding.
focus your attention on the variables at work in your school and
district that can be altered to create a reading culture and make a
huge difference in reading achievement-especially for those students
who are currently falling through the cracks
- To convince you of
the power that rests in you and your colleagues to teach every child
"Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons" by Siegfried Engelmann
Your school isn't teaching phonics, so you want to do it at home?
Siegfried Engelmann is a professor of education at the University of Oregon,
and is the nationally-recognized originator of the Direct Instruction approach to reading.
Who could be better to show you how to teach your child to read?
This book is
available through Amazon, but you may prefer to
go directly to the author's own website,
where additional materials and research are available.
"Let's Kill Dick and Jane: How the Open Court Publishing Company Fought the Culture of American Education"
by Harold Henderson
First paragraph from a
review by Diane Ravitch, Education Next, Winter 2007:
"This book tells the story of Blouke Carus's heroic but ultimately
unsuccessful attempt to reform American education. Carus founded the
Open Court Publishing Company in 1962 with two aims that did not seem
to be at all contradictory: first, to teach children to read, and
second, to do so while introducing them to classic children's
"Why Johnny Can't Read, And What You Can Do About It" by Rudolph Flesch
Here is the classic book that sparked a national awareness that something
was very, very wrong in the schools. It's not just a critique of how schools fail
to teach phonics skills: Flesch also shows parents how they can compensate for
the gaps at school by teaching their children at home how to read.
"War Against Schools: Academic Child Abuse" by Siegfried Engelmann
From the Amazon description:
Prof. Engelmann is an educator with more than 35 years of experience
teaching elementary school children, dealing with public school
administrators, and managing private training organizations. ...
Using his knowledge of both theory and
practice, Professor Engelmann gives both professionals and laypeople
such as parents and legislators examples of how educational theorists
and public educators have neglected the trees while concentrating on
the forest. In more specific terms, this details Professor
Engelmann's participation, as a developer of Direct Instruction
methods and materials, in the federal government's Project Follow
Through comparison of instructional methods, and how, after spending
half a billion dollars, the results of the study were never formally
published. Anyone interested in more fully understanding the debate
surrounding our public educational systems should read War Against
the Schools' Academic Child Abuse.
"Direct Instruction Reading"
by Douglas W. Carnine, Jerry Silbert, Edward J. Kameenui, and Edward J. Karmeenui
Review by Mary Damer
Direct Instruction Reading is a "must read" for any regular education or special
education teacher of reading K-12. Newer teachers, frustrated because they are
untrained in phonics instruction in a time when school districts are increasingly
requiring them to effectively teach these skills will find this book a helpful
source of reading instruction. Seasoned veteran teachers of reading who want to
fine tune their instruction of both phonics and comprehension strategies will
also come away with ideas and assessment that can be implemented in their
classroom. Parents and school board members who have been closely following
the reading debate will find this book answers many of their questions about
what they should look for in effective reading instruction. Practical,
research-based advice is jam-packed throughout the chapters which include
sequenced sound and word lists and examples of how to incorporate content maps
and other strategy guides into reading lessons. Not only do the authors
specifically discuss and demonstrate how to teach phonics, how to teach
vocabulary and language skills, and how to develop students' comprehension
skills, but they also provide interesting and easily read chapters which
discuss past and current research support for their recommendations.
Direct Instruction Reading will also be valuable for middle school or
high school teachers who are now expected to teach reading in addition to
their subject area of science or social studies.
Whenever I supervise student teachers who are expected to develop lesson
plans in a content area, I have them base their lesson plans on the authors'
suggestions for content area reading. The lesson plans provide such an excellent
framework that that students in their classroom enthusiastically learn new
vocabulary and key concepts, and the cooperating teachers are delighted with
the end product. Besides presenting valuable guidance about the teaching of
reading, Direct Instruction Reading also is a helpful source of information
for those who have questions about Direct Instruction and what it involves.
As the authors repeatedly stress throughout their book: "Reading failure
can be prevented . . . by efficiently organizing instruction, carefully
selecting and modifying reading material, and effectively presenting the
material. Students will not only learn the reading competencies needed for
success later in life, but they will also feel positive about their ability
to function in society.
"Straight Talk About Reading" by Susan L. Hall and Louisa Moats
The co-authors are two leaders in the movement towards a solid footing
for reading instruction in our schools.
Wilmette resident until she experienced how her 1st grader
was being taught in the local public school (Central School). She moved to Long Grove, transferred
her child to a school with a strong academic emphasis and that used educational
methods that were solidly based on reseach rather than rhetoric, and got very
active in educational issues. She is now president
of the Illinois chapter of the International Dyslexia Association. Susan has
provided a synopsis of her views, along with a sampling of the book
at this address.
Susan L. Hall was a
Louisa Moats is a project director of the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development Early Interventions Project, and in that role
she has been a very vocal critic of the educational orthodoxy. Several
of her juicier comments are on our quotes page.
"Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences"
by Kitty Burns Florey
Here are three of this book's reader reviews on Amazon:
Jason C. Mavrovitis: Kitty Burns Florey has written a book about the English
language that is witty, charming, educational, and impossible to put down.
"Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog" should be in every high school, and first year
college English classroom. Literature and creative writing majors run to the
bookstore and pick up a copy. Strunk and White move over. You have a new
companion on the bookshelf.
T. MacCombie: Who would have thought one could write such a funny, and charming,
and informative book on sentence diagramming? Kitty Florey weaves her own 6th
grade experiences diagramming sentences under the watchful eye of Sister
Bernadette, and then reflects on other writers, notably Gertrude Stein, who was
passionate about grammar, and even loved diagramming (who knew?) but then wrote
sentences that obeyed her OWN rules and defied grammatical conventions. Florey's
tone, throughout this delightful book, is one of spontaneous humor and warmth.
She is passionate about language herself, and seeing how language has evolved,
with or without the help of diagramming, is a fascinating look at ourselves, our
culture, and gives us a clue about what the future may hold for the written and
Michelle Bisson: This book is a fabulous read: it is brilliant, erudite,
easy-to-read, and laugh-out-loud funny. It will teach you all you never even
thought to ask about diagramming sentences, but it is about far more than that.
Really, it's an exploration of the evolution of the English language, the gap
between those of us who MUST speak and write properly and those who
say--whatever. Mostly, it'll make you laugh out loud and how many authors can do
"Speech to Print : Language Essentials for Teachers"
by Louisa Cook Moats, Ed.D.
Nationally respected reading expert Louisa Moats
gives teachers a thorough review of the mosty effective practices
and techniques in teaching reading.
Here is the description from Amazon:
"This thorough and well-written book ties textbook theory to
classroom practice, transcribing the process of learning how
to read -- from speech to print! Working through the exercises
will enable you to recognize, understand, and solve problems
that children encounter when learning to read and write.
Self-tests are included within the chapters for you to rehearse
the language skills presented. complete with case studies,
field-tested lesson plans and their adaptations, and
extensive appendices of answer keys, Speech to Print is you
indespensible course in the art of language."
"Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It:
A Scientific Revolution in Reading" by Diane McGuinness
More than just a list of woes about modern public education, this book
gives details and specifics on what constitutes an effective and successful
phonics-based reading program.|
I especially liked the detailed treatment of the history of the English
language, which I suppose we could summarize as "English -- How It Got That Way".
This fascinating story serves by assuring us that English's idiosyncracies
make sense in the light of its history. I found that I also got quite a bit
of insight into why and how words like, well, "insight" are perfectly good
phonics words despite efforts by the whole language cadre to attack phonics
with duck nibbles.
McGuinness' approach to reading is founded on the sounds of English, and going
from there directly to writing, and from there to reading. She shows -- clearly -- how
this approach dramatically simplifies the phonics approach, and makes it clearer,
more consistent and more defensible for all children.
"Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level"
by Sally Shaywitz, MD
Highly recommended by reading experts in our group!
"The War Against Grammar"
by David Mulroy
review by Diane Ravitch:|
"...Mulroy's book has important things to say to American teachers
and parents. In 1996, Mulroy, a classics scholar at the University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee, attended a public hearing about the state's
academic standards and innocently suggested that all high school
seniors should be required to identify the eight parts of speech in a
selection of normal prose. He thought it a 'modest and reasonable
suggestion.' To his surprise, he was plunged into controversy,
supported by parents, but strongly opposed by pedagogical experts,
who informed him that the NCTE disparaged the value of any grammar
instruction. After this disturbing discovery, Mulroy began to research the
reasons why English teachers have become opponents of grammar ...
He [found] those who were hostile to grammar instruction cast themselves as
progressives and saw proponents of instruction in grammar as rigid traditionalists.
These negative views toward grammar, Mulroy writes, became dogma in the nation's schools of education."
"Losing Our Language:
How Multicultural Classroom Instruction Is Undermining
Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Reason" by Sandra Stotsky
Is your child's school using a series of "literature" books, with each
year's text containing a wide variety of stories? Well, take a close look.
Take a very close look. Are those stories uplifting? Challenging?
Do they introduce valuable new vocabulary and increasingly more
complex writing? Or do they have startling high proportions of stories
you've never heard from, from third world sources?
Stotsky's book is a searing indictment of these "basal readers", and just
how badly they have slipped in the last twenty years. They are softer,
fluffier, and have less inspirational content than ever before.
This is a very scary book, and I heartily recommended it.
"Welcome to Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up" by Barbara Feinberg
Excerpts from a
review of "Welcome to Lizard Motel" by eminent education researcher and analyst Diane Ravitch:
"Barbara Feinberg contends that most of the young adult novels that teachers assign to teenagers are dreary,
depressing, and didactic. Rather than encouraging impressionable students to read more,
these so-called problem novels turn young people into reluctant readers. Furthermore, she holds that the
writers' workshops that have spread like kudzu through American elementary schools ...
deaden children's creativity.
She listens to her 12-year-old son and his friends as they discuss
the novels that their teachers have told them to read over
the summer. The boys don't like them. They seem, in fact, to
hate them. The books that her son, Alex, and his friends are compelled to read
are highly regarded by teachers and professors of education. Many
come decorated with Newbery medals and endorsements by the American
Library Association. They are books known in the field of children's
literature as Young Adult (YA) literature. All are highly realistic,
written in a confessional tone, usually in the first-person voice of
an angry or alienated teenager. The protagonist deals with traumatic
experiences: murder, suicide, the death of a parent or friend,
incest, sexual abuse, rape, drugs, abortion, kidnapping, abandonment.
Friendly or protective adults are virtually nonexistent; the main
character's mother ... is dead, missing, or nonfunctional. Children in these novels
almost never play. Often they feel guilty for whatever catastrophe befalls them. The books
are uniformly humorless, earnest, and depressing. Their
message, to the extent that they have one: the world is a nasty and
brutish place, and you can depend only on yourself."
For more on "stark'n'dark" literature, and its domination of the extensively promoted
Rebecca Caudill awards here in Illinois, go to this section
of our web page on literature.
"Telling Stories to Children" by Marshall Shelley
Here's a recommendation for a wonderful book to help find
inspiration in storytelling. And here are some
of my notes about it.
"Classics To Read Aloud to Your Children" by William F. Russell
"More Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children" by William F. Russell
In two paperback volumes, Russell collects a marvelous range of stories,
excerpts and poems. These are classics that form a foundation for
English literature -- but which few children in America see anymore in schools,
which would rather they read instant (and instantly forgettable) modern books.
Make up for what the school is missing by restoring Casey At The Bat,
the Song of Hiawatha, Barbara Fritchie, Beowulf, and many others.
"The Unfolding of Language" by Guy Deutscher
The Unfolding of Language is a eye-opening and invigorating revelation, answering the question
posed by every student trying to master the conjugations, declensions and genders
of a foreign language: where did all this stuff come from, anyway?
Deutscher is not writing about the derivation of words, he's talking about entire languages.
Why is it that language seems on a constant downward spiral (as lamented by Cicero!), yet it develops complex and more powerful forms?
If a book on linguistics can be a compelling page-turner, this is it!
"The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature"
by Elizabeth Kantor
From the publisher's description:
"The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature
exposes the PC professors and takes you on a fascinating tour through our great
literature -- in all its politically incorrect glory. Included: a syllabus and
how-to guide to give yourself the English lit education you were denied in
Description from Amazon:
Told in a straightforward, engaging style that has become Susan Wise Bauer's trademark,
The Story of the World covers the sweep of human history from ancient times until the present.
Africa, China, Europe, the Americas- find out what happened all around the world in long-ago times.
This read-aloud series is designed for parents to share with elementary-school children.
Enjoy it together and introduce your child to the marvelous story of the world's civilizations.
"Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony" by Robert B. Edgerton
"The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past"
by Keith Windschuttle
"War before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage" by Lawrence H. Keeley
Throughout much of this century the
notion has been gaining ground, bolstered by genocide and Holocaust,
that modern warfare is more barbaric than war has ever been.
Alongside this view has grown a romantic impression that primitive
cultures were, and are, more peaceful. Lawrence Keeley, an
anthropologist at the University of Illinois, aims to dispel this
inversion of the connotations of "civilization."
"Constant Battles: The Myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage" by Steven LeBlanc and Katherine E. Register
From Publishers Weekly:|
"... Harvard archaeologist
LeBlanc and his co-author dismantle the notion of the noble savage, a
myth that 'implies that if we can just ... remember our ancient
abilities to be one with the natural environment, warfare will stop
and ecological balance will be regained.'"
"The Ecological Indian"
by Shepard Krech
The author maintains that it is racist and dehumanizing to treat
native Americans as though they were preternaturally beyond the
everyday needs and desires of mankind everywhere.|
In that spirit, the book does a marvelous job in dissecting
the mythology and realities of Indian cultures and their
relationships to wildlife and the environment.
This book is the perfect antidote to the mindless drivel
heard so often in schools today.
"In the Hands of the Great Spirit: The 20,000-Year History of American Indians" by Jake Page
Reviewers have showered praise on this book for its respectful but objective treatment
of the history of Native Americans. By not succumbing to wishful thinking
or obsessing over political correctness, Page provides an insight into this culture
in a way that is ultimately far more insightful and passionate than most such books.
"Plagues Of The Mind: The New Epidemic Of False Knowedge"
by Bruce S. Thorton
This scholarly book dissects how unsubstantiated Romantic notions
of a "Golden Age" infect our understanding of history.
A few specific areas are targetted for special coverage: they include
belief in a pre-technological age of peace and plenty,
the "noble savage" idealization of Native American history,
and what Thorton calls "Romantic environmentalism".
"A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror"
by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen
For at least thirty years, high school and college students have been
taught to be embarrassed by American history. Required readings have
become skewed toward a relentless focus on our country's darkest
moments, from slavery to McCarthyism. As a result, many history books
devote more space to Harriet Tubman than to Abraham Lincoln; more to
My Lai than to the American Revolution; more to the internment of
Japanese Americans than to the liberation of Europe in World War II.
Now, finally, there is an antidote to this biased approach to our
history. Two veteran history professors have written a sweeping,
well-researched book that puts the spotlight back on America's role
as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the world.
"Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth" by Ben Shapiro
(to be reviewed)
"Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students"
by Anders Henriksson
From the description at Amazon:
Be prepared to weep as you read Non Campus Mentis: World History
According to College Students, a horrifically hilarious compendium
of actual North American college student essays. Learn about the
victims of the Black Death (who "grew boobs on their necks"),
the Automaton Empire, Martin Luther King's famous "If I Had a Hammer"
speech, the Iran Hostess Crisis, Zorroastrologism (the "duelist"
religion "founded by Zorro"), and Joan of Ark, Noah's wife,
at rest on Mt. Arafat. Meet Dim El Sum of Korea, the Vestigal Virgins,
"dedicated to burning the internal flame," and Hitler, who
"shot himself in the bonker." Did you know a position as
"lady-in-mating helped a young girl's chances for a marriage," and
"the assignation of Archduke Ferdman gave sweet relief to mounting
tensions," or that "the major cause of the Civil War is when slavery
spread its ugly testicles across the West"?
"The Geography Bee Complete Preparation Handbook: 1,001 Questions & Answers to Help You Win Again and Again"
by Matthew T. Rosenberg
Some participants in the National Geography Bee program prefer this guide to the "official" guide,
but others say that the "official" guide is more helpful.
Follow the links to Amazon to see what people are saying about both of these.
"National Geographic Bee Official Study Guide" by Stephen F. Cunha and Susannah Batko-Yovino
This is the "official" study guide for the National Geography Bee, published by the
National Geographic Society. Although about a third of this very slim book is devoted to sample
questions, most of the rest is concerned with how to find other sources for study.
Some people prefer the "unofficial" guide, above.
Follow the links to Amazon to see what people are saying about both of these.
For more info on the contest itself, follow this link to the
National Geography Bee.
"The Stealth Curriculum: Manipulating America's History Teachers"
by Sandra Stotsky
(click for info, or
download as a free PDF, or purchase as
Widely-used instructional materials that teachers rely upon to supplement
their textbooks and their own knowledge may be dangerous to children's
educational health. The creators of such materials often inject bias and political
manipulation into the minds of teachers and, subsequently, their students.
This study casts wary light on resources that teachers frequently use but
that seldom come under public or expert scrutiny.
"A Consumer's Guide to High School History Textbooks"
by Diane Ravitch
(click for info, or
download as a free PDF, or purchase as
A Consumer's Guide to High School History Textbooks is a summary review
of 12 widely used U.S. and world history textbooks.
"Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?"
by James Leming, Lucien Ellington, Kathleen Porter-Magee
(click for info, or
download as a free PDF, or purchase as
This report from the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation consists of penetrating critiques
by renegade social studies educators who fault the regnant teaching methods and
curricular ideas of their field and suggest how it can be reformed. While nearly
veryone recognizes that American students don't know much about history and civics,
these analysts probe the causes of this ignorance-and lay primary responsibility at
the feet of the social studies "establishment" to which they belong.
Math, Computers, Science
"Designing Effective Mathematics Instruction: A Direct Instruction Approach"
by Marcy Stein, Jerry Silbert and Douglas W. Carnine
A review by Don Crawford, Ph.D.:|
I would never again begin to attempt to teach elementary math without
this book on my desk. If you are fed up with the "new-new" math and
want to find out the clearest and simplest way to help children learn
basic computational skills this book is just what you need. This
text would be especially helpful to homeschoolers who want
consistent language that helps children understand place value when
they do arithemetic, or fractions when they are learning to
manipulate them. This text would also be needed by teachers whose
college training only prepared them to engage their students in
interesting math activities but never showed how to explain addition
and subtraction of unlike fractions, or how to effectively organize
math facts memorization, or even any strategies for solving word
problems. All these and many more are covered in helpful detail in
this text. There are invaluable tips for correcting common errors,
or better yet-how to avoid them. All explanations support each
other in a way that helps students tie new learning to the necessary
prior knowledge. I have used this as a text in curriculum methods
courses in three universities and most students come away with the
feeling that this book is an incredible reference book that they
wish to keep handy throughout their teaching careers.
"Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics:
Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States"
by Liping Ma
International comparisons show that children in Asia learn mathemtics better than ours do.
What accounts for this? Liping Ma's book strongly implies that the math preparation
and teaching skill of teachers is the predominant factor. This book has been widely praised
and recommended by mathematicians, and also by those school reformers who favor a solid mastery approach
to math education.
"The Principal's Guide to Raising Math Achievement" by Elaine McEwan
Author Elaine McEwan is a well-known education writer, and former
Chicago-area teacher and administrator. Here is a review of this
book by Mary Damer:
Elaine McEwan came out with another excellent book for principals last year that
I read over Christmas and want to highly recommend. One of our Illinois Loop
members, Frank Allen, who is a former NCTM president, contributed some
excellent material and is recognized in the acknowledgments. In the
introduction to "The Principal's Guide to Raising Math Achievement"
(published by Corwin Press), Elaine describes to school administrators the
four goals of her book: "a. to convince you of the power that rests in you
and your faculty to make numeracy a reality for each of your students; b. to
introduce you to the current controversies in math instruction c. to set
forth some of the most recent research in mathematics instruction so that you
and your faculty can make informed decisions and d. to share with you how you
can change what you're doing to make a powerful difference.
As with Elaine's other books, this latest one contains the same clear
language, illustrative stories, and humor that are signatures of her writing.
Through the first chapters, she clearly presents US mathematics achievement
or lack of it along with the current issues involved in today's Math Wars,
introducing that topic by describing, "The swirling discussions and debates
regarding mathematics education are enough to give administrators vertigo."
Her third chapter on "Research-Based Decision Making" is one I wish every
school administrator had to commit to memory. Elaine establishes this focus
as the basis for any and all curricular decision making using it to set the
tone for issues discussed in the rest of the book: Calculators - boon or
boondoggle; sage on the stage or guide on the side; effective teaching-the
key to raising math achievement).
For the sake of space, I won't go into all of the specifics of subsequent
chapters, but throughout her discussion of topics, Elaine weaves her own
experiences as an instructional leader as well as factual discussion about
our misconceptions about how math is "really" taught in Japan. Ending as she
typically does when writing for school administrators, Elaine concludes by
presenting "Thirty-Plus Practical Things" administrators can start doing
immediately to raise math achievement in their schools.
Whether one buys this for his or her own knowledge or gives this to an
administrator-who-needs-to-learn as a present or as an "anonymous gift",
he/she can be assured that any reader will walk away much more articulate
about current math issues .. and hopefully more resistant to simply believing
the latest faddish claims.
Stanley Pruss, a school board member in Oak Brook, has this to add:
Having read this book as a parent and a school board member, I am
giving it to both the principals in my district. This book explains
both many of the things that are done badly in many schools in the
country and shows the path for how to do them well. I found the
comparisons with the Japanese and Chinese methods of teaching
particularly helpful. This book was pleasant to read as well as
enlightening in how to promote the effective teaching of mathematics.
"Creative Problem Solving in School Mathematics" by Dr. George Lenchner
(click for more info from the Math Olympiad website)
This book is recommend by some math teachers as a source for
specific problem solving strategies with example problems
applicable to each strategy.
"Unknown Quantity: A Real And Imaginary History of Algebra"
by John Derbyshire
"Here is the story of algebra." With this deceptively simple introduction, we
begin our journey. Flanked by formulae, shadowed by roots and radicals, but
escorted by an expert who navigates unerringly on our behalf, we are guaranteed
safe passage through even the most treacherous mathematical terrain. ...
As we travel the ages, it becomes apparent that the invention of algebra was more
than the start of a specific discipline of mathematics -- it was also the birth of
a new way of thinking that clarified both basic numeric concepts as well as our
perception of the world around us. Algebraists broke new ground when they
discarded the simple search for solutions to equations and concentrated instead
on abstract groups. This dramatic shift in thinking revolutionized mathematics.
In a spirited defense of the teaching of algebra,
Algebra and Its Enemies,
Kenneth Silber cites this book:
An interesting feature of this history is just how slow progress often was.
Babylonians in the 2nd millennium BCE worked out algebraic word problems on
cuneiform tablets, and the ancient Greeks handled similar problems with a
geometrical approach, but it was only at the time of Diophantus, who lived in
Alexandria in roughly the 3rd century CE, that anyone used letter symbols to keep
track of unknowns in equations. The brutal death of the female
mathematician-philosopher Hypatia in 415 at the hands of a religious mob marked
the twilight of math in the declining Roman Empire.
Around 820, the Islamic scholar al-Khwarizmi wrote a book on algebra (the word
comes from the Arabic al-jabr, or "completion," his term for adding the same
amount to each side of an equation to put it into a standard form). However,
al-Khwarizmi and his contemporaries worked on algebra through word problems and
geometry. Diophantus' practice of employing letter symbols in equations had
vanished into forgotten archives. It was not until the late 1500s, particularly
with the work of French mathematician François Viète, that algebraic symbols were
reinvented and started to be used in a systematic way.
Such tortuous history, as Derbyshire points out, suggests that symbolic algebra,
with its high level of abstraction, does not exactly come naturally to people. He
finds this a bit depressing but also inspiring. The remarkable thing is not that
it took humanity so long to learn how to do this stuff, but that we can do it at
"Mathematical Cranks" by Underwood Dudley
"A delightful collection of true accounts of individuals who claim to have
achieved the mathematically impossible ... It is hard to put down and provides
topics for an unending series of interesting discussions. The organization and
breadth of the book are impressive, supported by a helpful index and a list of
resources that encourage further explorations. A classic."
"Numerology: Or, What Pythagoras Wrought" by Underwood Dudley
"Most of us, regardless of mathematical training, firmly believe that numbers
have great power and importance. Fewer in number, there are those who believe
numbers have the ability to control events and determine our fates. These latter
people, numerologists, are the subject of Dudley's most recent examination of the
abuses and misuses of numbers. ... Dudley provides a history of numerology starting
with Pythaogras and his number mystic disciples some 2500 years ago, and provides
numerous examples, past and present. Featured here are the Bible-numberists, who
placed special significance on the numerous sevens and perfect squares found in
the Bible; the pyramidologists, who believed that the world would end on August
20, 1953 (oops!); the modern-day Oxford scholar who believes that Shakespeare
wrote his sonnets with great dedication to triangular numbers; and many others. A
fun read for anybody who enjoys other peoples silliness, requiring no specific
mathematical knowledge beyond arithmetic. Numerology is highly recommended."
"The Golden Section" by Hans Walser
A fascinating review written by Underwood Dudley (author of the two books just mentioned, above) is available here:
The Golden Section by Hans Walser, reviewed by Underwood Dudley, MAA Online, Mathematical Association of America.
In fact, for most readers that review may be more interesting and accessible than the book itself!
It turns out that many of the aesthetic claims about the golden ratio (in everything from the Parthenon
to Mozart sonatas to the placement of the navel on the human body) are quite false. Nonetheless, the properties of this
ratio are intriguing and elegant.
Computers and Technology
"The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future"
by Mark Bauerlein
For decades, concern has been brewing about the dumbed-down popular culture
available to young people and the impact it has on their futures. At the dawn of
the digital age, many believed they saw a hopeful answer: The Internet, e-mail,
blogs, and interactive and hyper-realistic video games promised to yield a
generation of sharper, more aware, and intellectually sophisticated children. The
terms "information superhighway" and "knowledge economy" entered the lexicon, and
we assumed that teens would use their knowledge and understanding of technology
to set themselves apart as the vanguards of this new digital era.
That was the promise. But the enlightenment didn't happen. The technology that
was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and
improve their verbal skills has had the opposite effect. According to recent
reports, most young people in the United States do not read literature, visit
museums, or vote. They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount basic
American history, name their local political representatives, or locate Iraq or
Israel on a map. The Dumbest Generation is a startling examination of the
intellectual life of young adults and a timely warning of its consequences for
American culture and democracy.
Excerpt from a review by Chester E. Finn, Jr.:
... the point of this Emory University English professor's terrific new book: today's young people
don't know squat in large part because the trappings of the "digital age" have
addled their brains, distorted their priorities, and occupied all their time.
It's a polemic, yes, but it's full of compelling data as well as even more
compelling anecdotes and vignettes. Bauerlein faults the grown-ups, too, in a
forceful chapter called "The Betrayal of the Mentors." (Short version: professors
ennoble youth and its values rather than taming the former and correcting the
latter.) "As of 2008," Bauerlein concludes, "the intellectual future of the
United States looks dim. Not the economic future, or the technological, medical,
or media future, but the future of civic understanding and liberal education. The
social pressures and leisure preferences of young Americans, for all their
silliness and brevity, help set the heading of the American mind, and the
direction is downward.... It isn't funny anymore." Neither is this book, but you
really need to read it anyhow.
"The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint" by Edward R. Tufte
In 28 pages and for $7, Edward Tufte delivers up a powerful case against the
use of PowerPoint for presentations.
If that name sounds familiar, Tufte is
the author of the internationally praised classic book, "Visual Display
of Quantitative Information," considered to be one of the finest sources
for effective presentation of complex ideas.
If your school is gearing up to spend classroom time teaching kids how to
deliver presentations with PowerPoint, you may want to share this little booklet with
school administrators. Have the kids write and read a substantive essay instead!
"The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved"
by Todd Oppenheimer
The review in Booklist says, "The other side of the much-ballyhooed promise of
technology in improving education is the reality that it often distracts from
real education, provides new opportunities for commercial interests,
and only contributes to growing inequities and lack of performance."
Here is another review:
Why Computers Have Not Saved The Classroom by Bob Blaisdell, Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2003.
"What impact has computer technology had on public education in the
US? That's the question journalist Todd Oppenheimer sets out to
answer in The Flickering Mind.
Mr. Oppenheimer's conclusion: Putting computers in classrooms has
been almost entirely wasteful, and the rush to keep schools
up-to-date with the latest technology has been largely pointless.
'At this early stage of the personal computer's history, the
technology is far too complex and error prone to be smoothly
integrated into most classrooms,' Oppenheimer writes."
"Oversold And Underused: Computers in the Classroom"
by Larry Cuban
From a review in the Christian Science Monitor:|
"Today, in the US, it's teachers' turn to take the hit for the
lack of success that computers have brought to education.
Why haven't test scores gone up with the increased availability of
computers? Why do computers with all the latest programs sit unused
in classrooms, or at best serve only as word-processors or Internet searchers?
Those policymakers who giddily poured funding into technology as a
cure for the ills of public education blame, among other scapegoats,
stuck-in-the-mud teachers. ... [The author Larry Cuban]
is tempted 'to call for a moratorium on buying any more computers
for K-12 schools. A moratorium might startle people into openly
debating serious questions about how and why computers are used
and how they fit in with the larger purposes of universal education.'"
"Teachers and Machines: The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920"
by Larry Cuban
Here is a description of this book from the article
"The Computer Delusion" by Todd Oppenheimer:
"[In this book] Larry Cuban, a professor of education at Stanford
University and a former
school superintendent, observed that as successive rounds of new technology
failed their promoters' expectations, a pattern emerged. The cycle began with
big promises backed by the technology developers' research. In the classroom,
however, teachers never really embraced the new tools, and no significant
academic improvement occurred. This provoked consistent responses: the problem
was money, spokespeople argued, or teacher resistance, or the paralyzing school
bureaucracy. Meanwhile, few people questioned the technology advocates' claims.
As results continued to lag, the blame was finally laid on the machines.
Soon schools were sold on the next generation of technology, and the
lucrative cycle started all over again."
"High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom" by Clifford Stoll
The Kirkus Review of this book, quoted on Amazon, says, "Stoll bemoans a
major educational trend of the last decade: the rapid computerization
of the classroom. He's a passionate believer in a quite old-fashioned
medium of data transmission: the book. He asserts that advocates of
the computerized classroom have confused data with wisdom, wisdom being
the ability to filter data and place it into a larger perspective.
This is exactly what the internet cannot do, says Stoll. In the
computerized classroom, 'solving a problem means clicking on the
right icon,' allowing zero time to reflect. Thus, students focus on
the shallowness of data, supplemented by multimedia graphics, while
failing to consider the real-world contexts in which problems arise."
An interesting twist on the issue of computers in schools is that a growing
number of mainstream progressivists are questioning whether we should
be spending scarce dollars and scarcer time on computers. The following
two books are both written by authors with whom we would disagree on
most education issues, but who are just as dubious as we are when it comes to the role of computers in schools:
- "Failure To Connect" by Jane Healy
- "The Child and the Machine: How Computers Put Our Children's Education At Risk"
by Allison Armstrong and Charles Casement
"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character"
If you want to see the mind of a scientific
superstar at work, here's the book.
It helps that this is one heck of an extraordinarily
Feynman was a scientific superstar, the truest embodiment of a "modern Renaissance man", and
a sensational, powerful and colloquial lecturer. Considered to be the second greatest
physicist of the 20th century (after Einstein), tapes and books of this Nobel laureate's works
and lectures are still extremely popular. As his fame grew and his genius became wide-known,
he was invited to participate in such endeavors as the commission investigating the explosion
of the space shuttle Challenger, for which he provided crucial insights.
One essay in this book proves very relevant to education reformers:
In "Judging Books by Their Covers,"
Feynman talks about his experiences as a member of California state committee
evaluating math and science textbooks. Classic, absolutely classic!
Science, Philosophy and Education" by Alan Cromer
(to be reviewed)
"Facts, Not Fear:
A Parent's Guide to Teaching Children About the Environment"
by Michael Sanera and Jane S. Shaw
This is a concise, appealing and yet powerful handbook to
providing fair balance in discussing environmental issues in schools.
Recently, Kevin Killion heard Dr. Sanera speak at a
PRESS symposium. Here
are some notes from that presentation:
Dr. Sanera's concern is the direction and focus of
environmental education (or "EE") away from real science and
towards poorly substantiated claims and calls for political
action. He feels that such skewed treatment discredits the
Sanera is most decidedly NOT an anti-environmentalist. In
fact, among the glowing reviews on the back cover of his
book, one is from Patrick Moore, co-founder and past
president of Greenpeace. Moore said, "I am particularly
dismayed by the degree of pessimism for the future that is
generated by predictions of an environmental apocalypse ...
'Facts Not Fear' [Sanera's book] can help parents give their
children a positive attitude about the environment."
Sanera started his talk with an anecdote: A third-grade
teacher asked her science class, "Why does oil float on top
of water?", hoping for answers involving their relative
weights, etc. Instead, one boy answered, "People just don't
care anymore." Sanera used this to illustrate that kids are
being taught to process all such questions as yet more
environmental problems, and problems in which the cause is
Sanera introduced us to a group known as the North American
Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), and said
that while "90% of what they did was really bad stuff", they
did have an extremely good statement in their "Fairness and
Accuracy Guidelines". These include:
- "EE materials should be fair and accurate in describing
environmental problems, issues and conditions"
- "Sources of factual information are clearly referenced"
- "Factual information is presented in language appropriate
for education rather than for propagandizing"
- "Information comes from primary sources...rather than
from reviews or newspaper articles..."
- "Where there are differences of opinion or competing
scientific explanations, the range of perspectives should be
presented in a balanced way."
- "Materials should encourage learners to explore different
perspectives and form their own opinions"
- "Materials encourage an atmosphere of respect for
different opinions and an openness to new ideas"
So far, so good. But Sanera and his associates conducted a
study of how well textbooks used in EE classes met these
goals, and found that they generally failed miserably.
Books drastically overstated the rise in ocean levels if the
ice caps should melt, failed to point out that most of the
increased temperature of the 20th century occurred in its
first forty years, ignored the role of water vapor as the
principal greenhouse gas, and ignored the slowing rate of
population growth. They also placed heavy emphasis on
political action, telling kids to consider joining a group,
or to boycott products or to write letters to public
officials. In many cases, such activities, especially the
letter-writing one, is heavily emphasized.
Sanera was even less enthused about the state of EE in ed
schools. His team examined textbooks and materials from 12
EE courses offered in the UW ed school campuses, and found
that only two of them met the NAAEE guidelines.
What can be done? Sanera recommends a legislative approach,
essentially to mandate the NAAEE guidelines as part of law
or ed standards. The value of this approach, he says, is
that it gives you a leg to stand on when you challenge a
biased, politicized EE course or program at a school board
or school district. He offers his home state's "Arizona EE
Reform Model" as a good example of what he means.
In addition, positive action for EE reform might include
sponsorships or rewards. For example, the Arizona Advisory
Council of Environmental Education (AACEE) gives grants of
up to $10,000 to be used on field trips for student
projects, but the rules of the program require careful
consideration of all points of view.
In the Q&A, Sanera said that the first priority is that kids
often need to learn that there even exists another side on
some EE issues. Citing the recent news coverage of possible
oil exploration in Alaska, he said that kids need to know
that any time you drill there is an environmental impact
and that this is vital, but they also need to know that NOT
exploring also has consequences, such as (in this case)
increased energy costs and subsequent economic impacts,
dependence on foreign sources, use of fuels that pollute
more, the possibility of warfare.
In general, says Sanera, the reality of unintended
consequences is crucially important, and the hard part in
EE often is addressing that. He says that in their research
he couldn't find even a single example in any of the
textbooks of negative unintended consequences resulting from
the Endangered Species Act or the Clear Air Act. In
particular, he complained about the complete omission of
mention of "government-sponsored pollution", such as in the
case of EPA-mandated MTBE gas additives now being found as a
pollutant in ground water.
Sanera also talked about how the people who want to
politicize EE have become quite skilled in the public
relations techniques for effective promotion, lobbying, and
mastery of media sound bites, and he stressed that we needed
to become just as sophisticated (presumably, in the entire
education reform effort).
"But Is It True?: A Citizen's Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues" by Aaron Wildavsky
We've eaten Alar with our
apples and PCBs with our fish, drunk arsenic with our water, breathed
asbestos in our schools. Someone sounded the alarm, someone else said
we were safe, and both had science on their side. Whom are we to
trust? How are we to know? Amid this chaos of questions and
conflicting information, Aaron Wildavsky arrives with just what the
beleaguered citizen needs: a clear, fair, and factual look at how the
rival claims of environmentalists and industrialists work, what they
mean, and where to start sorting them out.
"Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists" by Peter Huber
"Playing God in Yellowstone: The Destruction of America's First National Park" by Alston Chase
||From Library Journal:|
Chase argues convincingly that
Yellowstone National Park is slowly being destroyed. He details how
the Park Service's preservationist policies have driven most of the
native wildlife from the park, while allowing some animals to
propagate far beyond the land's capacity to sustain them. He
meticulously documents his charges, showing how easily science can be
subverted by politics and ideology. Surprisingly, environmentalists
are implicated in the destruction. Chase critiques, with devastating
effect, the multitude of organizations that have made a religion of
protecting the environment, while ignoring the fundamental question
of man's place in nature.
"In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the Myths of Nature" by Alston Chase
Sports, Play, Recess
"Why Johnny Hates Sports"
by Fred Engh
This book has two subtitles: "Putting the fun back in sports for boys and girls"
and "Why organized youth sports are failing our children and what we can do about it."
The author is president of the National Alliance for Youth Sports.
"The Cheers and the Tears : A Healthy Alternative to the Dark Side of Youth Sports Today"
by Shane Murphy
(details to come)
"Will You Still Love Me If I Don't Win?: A Guide for Parents of Young Athletes"
by Christopher Andersonn and Barbara Andersonn
(details to come)
"Just Let The Kids Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Your Child's Fun and Success in Youth Sports"
by Bob Bigelow
(details to come)
"It's Just a Game! Youth, Sports & Self Esteem: A Guide for Parents"
by Darrell J. Burnett
(details to come)
"Battling Corruption in America's Public Schools"
by Lydia G. Segal
(details to come)
"School Corruption: Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust"
by Armand A. Fusco
(details to come)
"Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education"
by Joe Williams
Review from Booklist:|
Williams, education reporter with the New York Daily News, examines
how school policies shortchange children in favor of adult interests in jobs,
wages, and contracts. Drawing on a decade of reporting on public schools in New
York and Milwaukee, Williams explains how unions, politicians, vendors, and
consultants waste and mismanage funds meant to improve education. He also
outlines the role of teachers' unions and political parties in operating school
systems and how mindless bureaucracy alienates parents and distracts teachers
from their primary roles. He details how unions have prevented parent volunteers
from pulling weeds, how a valedictorian who criticized the school in her
graduation speech was denied her diploma until she apologized, how a computer
company was forced to withdraw hardware donations after bureaucratic rules
prevented effective use of the computers. Williams does salute exceptional
educators and parents who make heroic efforts on behalf of children but notes
that they are exceptions to the rule. He concludes with reform efforts that have
worked, including a Milwaukee program that features limited use of school
vouchers and mini school districts.
Buy Other Books!
You can use the following links to shop for other books and items at Amazon.
When you use these links to make any purchase, Illinois Loop
receives a small commission!