Education Book Review

New in Print

March 22, 2005 2 min read

The creator of some of the nation’s most innovative professional-development programs for educators offers a hands-on primer for school leaders on how they can “buck the system from within” and create a culture of continuous improvement.

The basis for the NBC television movie “A Town Torn Apart,” this book tells the story of an unorthodox new principal in rural New Hampshire who takes his rundown school from district joke to national prominence. The methods he champions include integrated subject matter, team teaching, apprenticeship, and individualized curriculum.

A leading constitutional scholar charts the history of religion in American schools and offers his perspective on the increasingly harsh debates this subject has engendered over recent decades. Refusing to teach about religion, he writes, may produce distortions in students’ view of their history and society. But he also warns that the line between dogma and discourse must be carefully guarded.

Stemming from the results of a commission sponsored by the National Academy of Education, this collection addresses the foundational knowledge for teaching and discusses how to transfer that knowledge to the classroom. The driving vision is to put in place—as law, medicine, engineering, and architecture have done—the key elements of a professional education curriculum.

Some of the country’s most prominent voices in education, including Robert Coles, Vivian Paley, Maxine Green, Alfie Kohn, Parker Palmer, Ira Shor, Theodore R. Sizer, and Donald Graves, give their reflections on teaching and learning in this very personal collection of interviews. A former staff member at the Rabun County, Ga., Foxfire educational organization has put together interviews originally conducted for The Active Learner: A Foxfire Journal for Teachers with commentary that weaves connections between them and compares the participants’ methods and ideas.

Written by an educational psychologist and former special education teacher who is now a best-selling author, this is the story of three people whose “feelings are not seen and needs are not met”: 9-year-old Cassandra, who has been subjected to repeated and severe abuse; 4-year-old Drake, who refuses to speak to anyone but his mother; and Gerda, an 82-year-old woman in a stroke-rehabilitation unit who cannot produce speech. How these three conquer their despair and go beyond their limitations is a lesson in the importance of interpersonal relations.

—Sandra Reeves