Education Opinion

New in Print

By Anne E. Das — September 07, 2005 4 min read
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This book by a well-known education researcher questions the validity of 18 widely held beliefs about education in America, and uses evidence in an effort to separate fact from what he contends is myth. The result is a set of findings that support such seemingly counterintuitive assertions as these: Schools are not underfunded, teachers are not underpaid, poverty and race do not prevent minority students from attending college, compliance with the accountability provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act is not expensive, and voucher programs do not promote segregation. People must realize, he argues, that education is no different from other institutions: Organized interest groups mold its policy, and the behavior of its practitioners is shaped by incentives.


Drawing on neurobiology, anthropology, sociology, and educational psychology, the authors maintain that schools, communities, and families are attempting to educate boys without understanding the male learning style. They target their advice to both parents and teachers, and stress practical information, from nutritional guidelines to recommended classroom layouts. They also analyze why boys are diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders at far higher rates than girls, examine the benefits of single-sex education, and offer suggestions on helping boys who are troubled, unmotivated, or not stereotypically masculine. For boys to succeed, they aver, families and communities must take more responsibility for their children’s education, and work as equal partners with their teachers and schools.


The author—a teacher, consultant, and lecturer with over 30 years of experience working with children with learning disabilities—explains how neurologically based symptoms associated with these disorders, such as inflexibility and a lack of impulse control, are directly linked to social incompetence and isolation. Arguing that social skills—not academic skills—are the determining factor in the future success and happiness of learning-disabled children, he presents techniques that both parents and educators can use to help such children overcome social obstacles at school, at home, and in the community. A companion video is available from PBS (teacher.shop.pbs.org).


Knowledge workers—defined in this book as highly educated or experienced professionals who create, distribute, or apply knowledge for a living—require unconventional management strategies that reflect their motivations, attitudes, and need for autonomy, the author contends. Based on six studies involving over 100 companies and more than 600 individual knowledge workers, this book identifies four major categories of knowledge workers, and makes recommendations for matching specific types of such workers with management strategies that yield the greatest results.


The author, the founder and ceo of Edison Schools Inc., criticizes the fragmented structure of American education, outlines changes calculated to be enactable at current resource levels, and calls for greater federal involvement in education investment and leadership. Proposed reforms include a shift to more independent learning at all grade levels; student employment in school administration, particularly tutoring; two- to threefold raises in teacher pay; new teacher and principal colleges; life-skills curricula; and student-motivation programs. He predicts that private-sector partners, working under local and public authorities, will play a crucial role in the reshaping of education over the next 25 years. (“Book: How to Eradicate Failed Schools by 2030,” Aug. 31, 2005)


The author, a journalism professor and former school board president, explores the metaphoric connections between education goals and the four travelers in “The Wizard of Oz.” He examines the desires of the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and Dorothy, and suggests activities to help teachers in developing in their students a love of learning, empathy, moral courage, and a sense of belonging. The nation’s reliance on high-stakes testing circumvents students’ quest for knowledge, he argues, while stifling their creative and ethical development.


Called by its publisher Jonathan Kozol’s “hardest-hitting and most prescriptive book to date,” The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America examines the rampant resegregation that the author says has been occurring nationwide in the 15 years since the federal courts began releasing school districts from long-standing desegregation plans. Kozol visited almost 60 public schools in 11 states while researching the book. But he also draws heavily on his experience working with children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years, dating back to the teaching stint that led to his celebrated 1967 book, Death at an Early Age. “This book will not be soft and sentimental,” he writes, “although there will be many lovely moments and the gloriously funny things kids say to me when I am in their classes. This book is about betrayal and the fierce injustice that is our schools today.” Education Week’s October books section will feature an excerpt.


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