Published Online: September 6, 2000
Published in Print: September 6, 2000, as Books: New in Print

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Public Engagement

Almost Home: America's Love-Hate Relationship With Community, by David L. Kirp (Princeton University Press, 41 William St., Princeton, NJ 08540; 350 pp., $24.95 hardback). Examines the causes and effects of the deep-seated tension between individualism and community in the United States. The author, a University of California at Berkeley professor of public policy, has compiled stories from across America to re-create the immediate experience of community. Of particular interest to educators, in his exploration of how Americans of different ages, races, ethnic and sexual backgrounds, and economic circumstances live together and at odds, are chapters on school choice in Harlem, K-12 reading and writing instruction in Los Angeles, and the purposes and promise of community colleges.

Rediscovering the Democratic Purposes of Education, edited by Lorraine M. McDonnell, P. Michael Timpane, and Roger Benjamin (University Press of Kansas, 2501 W 15th St., Lawrence, KS 66049-3904; 288 pp., $40 hardback, $17.95 paperback). Essays by leading education theorists attempt to establish the intellectual foundation for revitalizing American schools and offer concrete ideas for how the educational process can be made more democratic. The authors make a case for better empirical research about the politics of education in order both to reconnect schools to their communities and help educators instill the traits of good citizenship. The first part of the book re-examines the original premise of American education as articulated by thinkers such as Jefferson and Dewey. The second identifies flaws in how schools are currently governed and offers models for change. A final section analyzes the values conflicts posed by the twin strands of democratic socialization and governance, and their implications for educational policy.


School Reform

Left Back: A Century of Failed School Reforms, by Diane Ravitch (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 544 pp., $30 hardback). Sets in context the many controversies that swirl around American education today. Ms. Ravitch, a prominent education historian and former assistant U.S. secretary of education, traces the origins of the United States' seemingly permanent debate about school standards, curricula, and methods, contending that the one, true purpose of the school is the intellectual development of every child. In her view, American educators have committed three great errors: First, they tried to turn the school into a vehicle for social reform, forgetting that the essential purpose of schools is instruction. Second, they assumed that large numbers of children were incapable of learning much that the schools traditionally taught. Third, they believed that teaching knowledge was less important than engaging students in activities and experiences.

Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education, by Peter Senge with Nelda H. Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner (Currency Books, Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036; 574 pp., $35 paperback). A team headed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology business professor Peter Senge explores some of the cutting-edge practices taking place in classrooms and communities around the country as schools attempt to re-create themselves by adopting the principles of organizational learning. Features articles and case studies from more than 75 contributors, describing tools and methods, stories and reflections, guiding ideas, and exercises and resources that educators, school districts, and parents can use to make schools better.

Further information on these books is available by calling this toll-free number: (800) 253-6476.

Vol. 20, Issue 1, Page 62

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