Opinion
Education Commentary

New in Print

February 15, 2005 6 min read

BEHAVIOR & CHILD DEVELOPMENT

A prominent pediatrician and writer asserts that a growing number of today’s students leave school unprepared to begin work—going so far as to label their career unreadiness an “epidemic.” He writes that a “swirl of factors unique to our contemporary culture and embedded in our educational practices is harming children ... stunting mental growth and leaving developing minds unready to launch themselves into productive and fulfilling lives.” Some practices he is wary of include too highly structured activities, overloaded schedules, and adults meeting children’s demands for immediate gratification. He urges schools to focus more on life preparation.

An educational therapist and curriculum developer analyzes some of the behaviors and attitudes that can sabotage middle and secondary school students’ academic performance and lower their self-esteem. Each chapter examines a reason children may struggle academically. Topics discussed include organization, recordkeeping, time management, and goal-setting.

A temperament counselor skillfully weds research with clinical case studies in this examination of children’s temperament traits at different developmental stages. She explains how certain combinations of temperament traits can evolve into behavioral problems, and then describes techniques that educators, clinicians, and parents can use to respond to problems such as aggression, shyness, and noncompliance. Although chapter 1 is necessary reading, as it explains the concept of temperament, educators will want to turn to chapter 9: “Temperament in Educational Settings.”

ECONOMICS & SCHOOLING

A distinguished scholar provides a history and analysis of business leaders’ role in education reform since the late 19th century. Focusing on two historical periods—the 1880s to the 1930s, and the 1970s to the present—he examines how business-inspired reformers have paradoxically blamed poorly performing educators and overly bureaucratic schools for the nation’s economic problems, while at the same time, making them a centerpiece of economic reform. He uses the device of posing six questions (one per chapter) to inquire more deeply into the relationship between education and the economy. The book calls into question assumptions about that relationship that the author considers to be flawed.

An educational sociologist and a historian give a history of “vocationalism” in American schooling, especially its growth in importance throughout the 20th century. They define vocationalism as “an educational system whose purposes are dominated by preparation for economic roles.” The “Education Gospel” of their title is a set of assumptions and practices based on the premise that more schooling enhances both an individual’s earnings and the nation’s economic growth.

More than just a history of Edison Schools Inc., perhaps the nation’s most prominent educational management organization, or emo, this is also a book that examines the debate over privatization and asks: What is the function of public schools in a democracy? Rather than simply tell the Edison story through student test scores and cost efficiencies, the author aims to assess whether this private company can—and should—supply educational services to public schools.

LANGUAGE & LITERACY

A “summary and synthesis” of research on the literacy needs of middle and secondary school students, as well as a window on the unanswered questions that may determine progress in the understudied area of adolescent literacy.

In this mammoth volume, a comprehensive summary of what’s now known about the processes of language development and literacy, leading specialists contribute essays on recent advances in their fields. The book is divided into four sections: Part 1 focuses on theory and research related to cognitive and neurological processes; Part 2 concerns issues of social context; Part 3 looks at the dimensions of language; and Part 4 provides research-based strategies for student assessment and improved instruction.

REFERENCE

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University have collaborated to produce this compendium of information on the state of American childhood. It calls attention to inequalities in U.S. children’s health status, access to health care, and availability of community resources, based on family income, geography, ethnicity, and other factors. Contributors include John de Graaf on “affluenza,” Henry Cisneros on urban housing, Dr. Irwin Redlener on children in a post-9/11 world, Judith Wallerstein on divorce, William H. Dietz on obesity, and Shay Bilchik on children and the law.

A comprehensive and clearly written resource for improving scientific literacy. The vocabulary of 850 scientific terms is taken from all the major scientific fields, as well as the applied fields of anthropology, earth science, medicine, and technology. The book also includes 350 illustrations and 320 biographical listings.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Two psychiatrists, both diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, update what is known about this condition in a guide designed to be accessible to those with add learning styles and attention spans. Both encouraging and sensible, its suggestions include a five-step plan to promote the talents and strengths of those with add. Stressing the value of education, structure, and lifestyle changes, the book also includes a discussion of medications, nonmedication therapies, and other topics of interest.

Six health-care professionals created this guide for educators, clinicians, and parents in response to their concern over the large number of gifted children (and adults) being misdiagnosed with mental disorders, and perhaps receiving harmful treatment. By detailing the characteristics of gifted children and describing those traits that most often cause the gifted to be misdiagnosed, the authors provide ways for teachers and others to distinguish between gifted behaviors and those that are pathological.

Written by the Australian author at age 19 (he’s now 23), this memoir shows what it’s like inside the mind of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It depicts the many challenges that the author, his teachers, and his family faced, including six different schools, 3,000 hours of detention, and family counseling. Despite the obstacles, however, the author, through self-taught concentration techniques, was able to graduate from high school and attend a competitive university. The book should inspire both the students who share his diagnoses and the educators who instruct them.

EXCERPT: An ‘Unpleasant Game’

Jay Parini, a longtime teacher and an acclaimed writer of poetry, fiction, and criticism, has crafted a memoir of his life in the classroom. The Art of Teaching (Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; 176 pp., $17.95 hardback), is both wise and good-humored, and reads like a mentor’s letter of advice to an aspiring teacher. In the passage below, he laments the national turn toward more and more testing.

EXCERPT: The Paradox of Childhood

In Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 79 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138; 464 pp., $29.95 hardback), Steven Mintz looks at childhood as a social and cultural construction that changes over time. Here he discusses contradictions at the heart of our modern view.

A version of this article appeared in the February 16, 2005 edition of Education Week as New in Print