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June 23, 2004 9 min read
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Bestsellers | Gender | Global Education | High Schools | Religion | Noteworthy


Seven Days of Possibilities: One Teacher, 24 Kids, and the Music That Changed Their Lives Forever
by Anemona Hartocollis (PublicAffairs Books, 250 W. 57th St., Suite 1321, New York, NY 10107; 314 pp., $25 hardback).

A reporter and columnist for The New York Times writes the story of a Finnish jazz singer who comes to New York City in search of fame, only to discover a greater talent as mentor and creative spark for the PS 86 Gospel Choir in the Bronx. This is a book that speaks as much to the politics of urban schools as to the needs and capacities of their students. Includes a CD with 15 songs performed by the choir.

The State Boys Rebellion
by Michael D’Antonio (Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020; 308 pp., $25 hardback).

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist tells two stories in this gripping account of a group of boys who were locked away in a Massachusetts institution where they were abused and exploited as human guinea pigs. One is the very human story of these former wards of the state, who reunite and sue their oppressors, winning a multimillion-dollar settlement; the other is the more disturbing story of the American eugenics movement, which, in the first half of the 20th century, created a vast national network of institutions that confined hundreds of thousands of children labeled as “feebleminded.”


A Vision for Girls: Gender, Education, and the Bryn Mawr School
by Andrea Hamilton (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2715 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218; 252 pp., $39.95 hardback).

This history of the first college-preparatory school for girls in the United States shows how that path-breaking institution helped shape America’s educational goals and assist greater numbers and new classes of women in entering the public sphere.

Adolescent Boys: Exploring Diverse Cultures of Boyhood
ed. by Niobe Way & Judy Y. Chu (New York University Press, 838 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003; 395 pp., $22 paperback).

This book demonstrates how the contexts of boys’ lives, such as where they go to school, shape their identities and relationships, with a focus on boys from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Unfit Subjects: Educational Policy and the Teen Mother
by Wanda S. Pillow (RoutledgeFalmer, 29 W. 35th St., New York, NY 10001; 271 pp., $24.95 paperback).

The author, who teaches at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offers a critique of the ways that “educational policy defines and addresses teen pregnancy,” posing such questions as: How is teenage pregnancy constructed as a problem, and for whom? Why is there so little focus in national policy debates and educational research on teenage pregnancy as an education policy issue? And what impact has Title IX, the federal law on sex discrimination in education, had on the education of teenage mothers?

Some Wore Bobby Sox: The Emergence of Teenage Girls’ Culture, 1920-1945
by Kelly Schrum (Palgrave Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010; 214 pp., $29.95 hardback).

An examination of the way teenage identity came about in the United States after World War I, and its tie to the early development of a consumer culture targeted primarily at teenage girls.

Where Girls Come First: The Rise, Fall, and Surprising Revival of Girls Schools
by Ilana DeBare (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014; 400 pp., $24.95 hardback).

This history of girls’ schools in America is interlaced with the author’s own story of co-founding an all-girls school in Oakland, Calif. It examines some issues that surround single-sex schooling and seeks to show why all-girls schools are experiencing a revival.

Global Education

Education and Conflict: Complexity and Chaos
by Lynn Davies (RoutledgeFalmer, 29 W. 35th St., New York, NY 10001; 264 pp., $39.95 paperback).

The director of the Center for International Education and Research at Britain’s University of Birmingham gives an overview of education in an international context. From his extensive research and personal experience, he also explores the relationship between schooling and social conflict. Arguing that there is a direct link between the ethos of a school and the attitudes of future citizens toward “others,” the author also looks at the nature and purpose of peace education.

Peace Jam: How Young People Can Make Peace in Their Schools and Communities

by Darcy Gifford (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint, 989 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103; 166 pp., $22 paperback).

Based on the acclaimed PeaceJam program—an educational action plan built around the spirit, skills, and wisdom of Nobel Peace laureates—this book tells the stories of five American youths who were able to use skills learned in the program, as well as their ability to develop personal relationships with Nobel Peace laureates such as the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to understand the depth of their own potential.

High Schools

The Comprehensive High School Today
ed. by Floyd M. Hammack (Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027; 165 pp., $22.95 paperback).

Taking into account the late Harvard University president James B. Conant’s praise for the comprehensive model of secondary education, or the comprehensive high school, contributors assess current high school reform efforts in their sociological and historical context. In his introduction, the volume’s editor writes that each chapter “considers Conant’s ideas and questions the degree to which comprehensiveness has really been achieved.” The book also examines some of the consequences of comprehensiveness, especially those related to school size.

Great Books for High School Kids: A Teachers’ Guide to Books That Can Change Teens’ Lives
ed. by Rick Ayers and Amy Crawford (Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108; 260 pp., $15 paperback).

This innovative guide assembled by high school English teachers includes an annotated list of nearly 400 titles arranged by author and subject. The book is made unique by its inclusion of recommendations in adult fiction and comics and “graphic novels.” The editors provide seven essays that reflect on their students’ classroom responses to these readings.

Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School
by Michael Bamberger (Atlantic Monthly Press, 841 Broadway, New York, NY 10003; 224 pp., $23 hardback).

A Sports Illustrated senior writer who spent a school year following the students, parents, teachers, and neighbors of Pennsbury High School in Fallsington, Pa., provides a detailed look at contemporary teenage culture as he tells the story of one middle-class American high school’s prom, which for the past 30 years has attracted thousands of locals in a kind of communitywide pageant.


School Board Battles: The Christian Right in Local Politics
by Melissa M. Deckman (Georgetown University Press, 3240 Prospect St. N.W., Washington, DC 20007; 240 pp., $39.95 hardcover, $26.95 paperback).

A college professor examines the motivations, methods, and political successes of conservative Christian school board candidates, posing such questions as: Why do they run for school board seats? How much influence has the Christian right actually had on boards? And how do conservative Christians govern, once elected?


In A Child’s Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play (University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637; 111 pp., $19 hardback), the veteran kindergarten and nursery school teacher Vivian Gussin Paley laments the disappearance of play from classrooms as the push for school accountability grows. She defends the necessity of using creative time and fantasy play to foster the psychological, intellectual, and social development of very young students, as is illustrated in the passage below:

“It is in the development of their themes and characters and plots that children explain their thinking and enable us to wonder who we might become as their teachers. If fantasy play provides the nourishing habitat for the growth of cognitive, narrative, and social connectivity in young children, then it is surely the staging area for our common enterprise: an early school experience that best represents the natural development of young children.”

(Princeton University Press, 41 William St., Princeton, NJ 08540; 268 pp., $29.95 hardback), Harvard University anthropologist Mica Pollock explores the boundaries of racial dialogue—or the lack of such dialogue—in American schools. She argues that both “clumsy” ways of talking about race and an avoidance of race labels in schools have led to increased racial disparities in educational opportunities and attainment. The following passage, on California’s anti-affirmative-action ballot initiative, leads to the author’s central question: “When should we talk as if race matters?”

“A majority of California voters marked the ballot for a state proposition vaguely entitled the ‘Equal Opportunity Initiative,’ which set out to make illegal not only ‘race-based’ affirmative actions in the state’s universities, but also every ‘race-based’ educational program in the state. This Proposition 209, part of a nationwide wave of litigation intended to outlaw the consideration of race in college admissions, K-12 student enrollment plans, and programs for academic enrichment or student outreach, did not outlaw California’s racial categories themselves, of course. It also did not erase racial categories from Californians’ minds. Rather, it simply outlawed mentioning in official documents that these categories existed: in practice, the policy was less about being colorblind than being actively colormute.”

“What the Heath and Westside communities experienced was a relatively new kind of violence: a rampage school shooting. These are a special kind of attack, quite unlike the more familiar revenge killings we hear so much about. Rampage shootings are defined by the fact that they involve attacks on multiple parties, selected almost at random. The shooters may have a specific target to begin with, but they let loose with a fusillade that hits others, and it is not unusual for the perpetrator to be unaware of who has been shot until long after the fact. These explosions are attacks on whole institutions—schools, teenage pecking orders, or communities. Shooters choose schools as the site for a rampage because they are the heart and soul of public life in small towns. Rampages tend to take place in rural and suburban settings—they rarely occur in urban areas—and rampage shooters are predominantly white boys.”

“Learning to consume is one of the most important lessons taught in our high schools. The question we need to face is whether this is the kind of education we want to give our children and the kind of people we want them to become. The answer to that question will be determined, in large measure, by how adults choose to organize their own lives.”

“Globalization’s increasing complexity necessitates a new paradigm for learning and teaching. The mastery and mechanical regurgitation of rules and facts should give way to a paradigm in which cognitive flexibility and agility win the day. The skills needed for analyzing and mobilizing to solve problems from multiple perspectives will require individuals who are cognitively flexible, culturally sophisticated, and able to work collaboratively in groups made up of diverse individuals.”

—A. E. Conrad


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