- Anxious Parents: A History of Modern Childrearing in America by Peter N. Stearns (New York University Press, 838 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003; 251 pp., $29.95 hardcover).
A historian examines the evolution of modern parenting, asking the question: Has it always been this hard? He shows that a new and more worried perspective on parenting began to emerge in the early 20th century, and took hold despite many improvements in the lives of children. Grounded in research, this study offers insights into such school-related developments as the rise of grade inflation, the growth of parental ambivalence toward the schools, and the influence of escapist entertainment on learning and social development.
- Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children by Ann Hulbert (Knopf, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 450 pp., $27.50 hardcover).
This highly praised study of America’s preoccupation with raising children gives what one reviewer calls “a panoramic view of child-rearing advice and philosophy,” from the turn of the 20th century to the new millennium. Moving from pioneering experts in the new science of child care, such as Luther Emmett Holt and G. Stanley Hall, the author, a seasoned journalist and editor, provides anecdotes and insight into the work of such giants as Bruno Bettelheim, Benjamin Spock, T. Berry Brazelton, and many others. Her attention to the influence of social and political change, such as the rise of feminism and the movement back to conservative family values, gives this detailed and engaging study of child care the sweep of history.
- Emotions of Teacher Stress by Denise Carlyle and Peter Woods (Trentham Books, 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling, VA 20166; 190 p., $22.50 paperback).
A book describing the stress many teachers feel and offering reasons for why they feel it. The authors examine the individual psychologies of a group of teachers who feel themselves to be stressed and then analyze those teachers’ work patterns, relationships, and the roles they perform in their schools. In reaching conclusions, the authors also consider how current education policies are adding to teacher stress.
- Not the Thing I Was: Thirteen Years at Bruno Bettelheim’s Orthogenic School by Stephen Eliot (St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010; 304 pp., $24.95 hardcover).
A memoir of an emotionally disturbed childhood and adolescence spent within the confines of the Orthogenic School in Chicago, directed at the time by the Viennese psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim. Having survived the Nazi concentration camps used to destroy personality, Bettelheim wanted to construct an environment that could create and nurture it. This book’s author lived at the school between the ages of 8 and 21, when he left to enter Yale University. In this first and only memoir by one of Bettelheim’s patients, Stephen Eliot describes an alternative treatment for mentally ill and emotionally disturbed children that he experienced firsthand—relating both the good and the bad.
- Tough Times, Strong Children: Lessons From the Past for Your Child’s Future by Dan Kindlon (Miramax Books, 11 Beach St., 5th Floor, New York, NY 10013; 224 pp., $23.95 hardcover).
Written by a Harvard University child psychologist, this guide for parents identifies the many ways children respond to trauma and stress by examining the role parents play in handling fearful situations. Those roles are illustrated through interviews he conducted with witnesses and survivors of the Great Depression, World War II, concentration camps, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and other terrible events of the recent past. The author also attempts to explain why some children can survive such trauma and live normal adult lives, while others do not.
Reading and Literacy
- Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation, and Lies by Gerald Coles (Heinemann, 361 Hanover St., Portsmouth, NH 03801; 192 pp., $19 paperback).
Written by an educational psychologist with a special interest in literacy and learning disabilities, this book bills itself as a “scathing indictment of the National Reading Panel’s ‘research’ and other attempts to undermine reading education, such as mandated legislation like Reading First and the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act.” The book analyzes the language of the National Reading Panel’s report, provides counterarguments to its findings, and examines questions the report raises as a means of critiquing its stance on the need for scientifically based reading instruction.
- Breaking Free: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice by Sol Stern (Encounter Books, 665 Third St., Suite 330, San Francisco, CA 94107; 230 pp., $24.95 hardcover).
The author, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contrasts his experience attending New York City public schools in the 1940s and 1950s with the New York City public schools that his sons recently attended. His sons’ schools, he asserts, were “shaped by ‘progressive’ fad and politically correct clichés.” They are, in his eyes, a place where “inept” teachers are protected by “dictatorial” unions. After visiting a number of the city’s small Roman Catholic schools, then traveling to Milwaukee and Cleveland to study voucher programs in those cities, he concludes that there are ways to successfully “rescue” poor and minority students from failing schools.
- Choosing Choice: School Choice in International Perspective ed. by David N. Plank & Gary Sykes (Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, N.Y. 10027; 256 pp., $45 hardcover).
In what is called the “first cross-national comparative study on school choice policies,” prominent scholars discuss educational policies and experiences with school choice in England, Chile, South Africa, the Czech Republic, China, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden. A series of questions on the history and impact of school choice policies in a global context are posed and answered.
Society and Schools
- The American Dream and the Public Schools by Jennifer L. Hochschild and Nathan Scovronick (Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; 301 pp., $35 hardcover).
An examination of controversial issues in education based on the assumption that such conflicts are “rooted in the American dream.” The authors—one a Harvard University professor of government who is an expert on race and education, one the director of Princeton University’s undergraduate program in public and international affairs—look at issues such as desegregation, school funding, testing, vouchers, bilingual education, multicultural education, and ability grouping, finding an apparent conflict between policies meant to assist the individual student and those meant to benefit all students. Policies focusing on individual success, they write, “too often benefit only those already privileged by race or class, and too often conflict unnecessarily with policies that are intended to benefit everyone.”
- Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind by Gerald Graff (Yale University Press, PO Box 209040, New Haven, CT 06520; 329 pp., $29.95 hardcover).
An indictment of the academic mind-set that the author says obscures rather than clarifies the task of learning. Written by a distinguished professor of English and education whose 1993 offering, Beyond the Culture Wars, examined the possibility of revitalizing education by focusing on its conflicts, this new volume asks teachers to look at the academic world through the eyes of those students who “just don’t get it.” Arguing that the academic life is often made to seem more remote and specialized than it is in reality, he draws on his experience as a teacher to urge other educators to recognize the extent to which “academic argument participates in our popular culture"—including political debates, corporate life, and even sports. We should look for points of intersection, he says, between real life and the often overexalted “life of the mind.”
- Dividing Classes: How the Middle Class Negotiates and Rationalizes School Advantage by Ellen Brantlinger (RoutledgeFalmer, 29 W. 35th St., New York, NY 10001; 264 pp., $80 hardcover, $22.95 paperback).
Derived from interviews with administrators, principals, teachers, and middle-class mothers who reside in the author’s small Indiana town, this firsthand, ethnographic account by an Indiana University professor of curriculum and instruction investigates the relationship between social class and educational success. The book centers on the goals and values of the “dominant” group—the middle class—to reveal the power it holds in shaping education policies to benefit its own children.
- The Colors of Excellence: Hiring and Keeping Teachers of Color in Independent Schools ed. by Pearl Rock Kane & Alfonso J. Orsini (Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, N.Y. 10027; 168 pp., $19.95 paperback).
A collection featuring findings from a five-year study on independent schools and testimonials from teachers and students of color, including the stories of individuals of African-American, Chinese- American, Cuban-American, Latino-American, and Native American descent. Contributors discuss the importance of forming a diverse teaching staff in order to create a positive school culture for all students. They analyze teacher diversity in 11 independent schools and draw from that work guidelines useful to other schools in increasing faculty diversity. Collectively, the stories reveal how teachers of color obtained their jobs at independent schools, what specific demands such teachers may confront, and why they continue to teach at independent schools.
- The Essential 55 by Ron Clark (Hyperion, 77 W. 66th St., New York, NY 10023; 196 pp., $19.95 hardcover).
The 2001 Disney Teacher of the Year shares 55 strategies he says can be used to help students be successful both in and out of the classroom. The author writes that this guidebook of basic rules has proven effective with the students he has taught in many of the most difficult schools in the country.
- There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith (Pantheon Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019; 224 pp., $21 hardcover).
The chronicle of an award-winning teacher’s 17-year career instructing and mentoring 5th grade students at a Los Angeles public school. Hobart Elementary School, where the author and his students attend class from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., enrolls 2,200 students, many of whom are very poor and have difficulty speaking English. As the book recounts, those students score in the country’s top 10 percent on standardized tests, perform a Shakespeare play each year, and go on to attend elite universities. The teacher-author explains what he does that helps so many children, writing that their success comes “from a strong work ethic and from dedication and perseverance on the part of children, teachers, and parents alike.”