Education Commentary

New in Print

By Anne E. Das — April 25, 2006 6 min read


33newbook newyorker

Below are two selections from The New Yorker Book of Teacher Cartoons, edited by Robert Mankoff (Bloomberg Press, www.bloomberg.com/books; 128 pp., $21.95 hardback), a collection of the 118 most popular school-related cartoons published in that magazine over the past 80 years. Together, they take a humorous look at students, their parents, and the demands of the teaching profession. Cartoons reprinted with permission.

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33newbook newyorker cartoon2

Ethics and Education

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Fearing that students today lack the ability to respectfully and thoughtfully examine ethical controversies, Kunzman, a high school teacher and assistant professor of education at Indiana University Bloomington, calls on teachers and school administrators to cease what he sees as their avoidance of the topics of religion and morality. He asserts that “values clarification,” Lawrence Kohlberg’s model of cognitive developmentalism, and character education have failed as approaches to ethical education because they attempt to address morality disconnected from its sources. Knowledge of those sources, particularly religion, is essential to students’ growth as citizens who empathize with others and appreciate diversity, Kunzman argues.

Talking about religion and morality in the classroom is not antithetical to a liberal education, he contends, but consistent with its goal of building a tolerant society.

Human Resources and Management

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Analysts predict that within the decade, employers in all industrialized markets will be confronted by a crippling labor shortage and unprecedented brain drain, as baby boomers retire and fewer skilled, younger workers are available to replace them. Stressing that no business or nonprofit organization can ignore those demographic trends, the authors put forth recommendations for attracting, accommodating, and retaining talented employees of all ages. Employers must redefine retirement, they maintain, to take advantage of mature workers’ experience, while rekindling the enthusiasm of midcareer staff members and better engaging transient, younger employees to promote loyalty. To satisfy all three groups, they suggest that organizations endorse flexible work arrangements, encourage lifelong education and training, and implement creative compensation and benefits programs. By strengthening the current workforce while taking steps to prevent potential talent shortfalls, organizations can not only survive, the authors conclude, but thrive in the tighter labor markets of the future.


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Stewart is known internationally for his best-selling books popularizing mathematics and science, and is a frequent contributor to Scientific American and New Scientist. In this book, written as a series of letters from a fictitious mathematician to his niece, he speaks to students contemplating a degree and possible career in mathematics. The letters begin with “Meg” in high school, and follow her education and development professionally through to her receiving tenure at a university. The book’s format allows Stewart to take up a wide range of subjects, from what mathematics is and why it’s worth doing, to seeing beauty in nature’s geometry and patterns. His purpose, he writes, is “not merely to offer practical advice, but to give an inside view of the mathematical enterprise, and to explain what it is really like to be a mathematician.”


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In light of the nation’s growing focus on research-based education practices, Lauer, a former principal researcher with Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, in Aurora, Colo., strives to help educators and policymakers become more knowledgeable consumers of education research who can better ascertain its usefulness in forming policy. She clarifies the differences between descriptive research and experimental research, summarizes the purposes and methods of each, and breaks down how each type of study should be evaluated. Attention is also given to data-collection techniques and their influence on the validity of research conclusions. The book includes tips on reading research reports, a glossary of research terms, advice on locating education research online, and a statistics tutorial. Lauer’s underlying theme is that research, correctly conducted and assessed, produces reliable information that should be held above stories, personal experiences, or opinions when making far-reaching education decisions.

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Through his 32 “principles of data interpretation,” around which the book is organized, Bracey, a former district research coordinator and now a widely read independent researcher and commentator, seeks to help educators understand how statistics are created, and how they can be employed both to provide information and to advance a specific agenda. He demonstrates, with real and hypothetical examples of research evidence, the ways that variables, correlations, and graphs should be scrutinized to determine whether a study’s conclusions are valid and its data meaningful. Because much of current education research is based on test results, Bracey also describes the nature and construction of standardized tests, outlines common education assessments used in the United States and international comparisons, and explains the testing provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. He ends with a list of resources for further reading on the objectives and limitations of education statistics and testing.


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A teacher for more than 20 years, Richardson was one of the first education bloggers, or online diarists, and is the author of www.weblogg-ed.com, a Web log devoted to exploring the classroom applications of Web-based technologies. In this book, written with the Web novice in mind, he shows teachers how to integrate new Web tools into their instruction to both enhance their practice and foster student learning. Such tools include not only blogs, wikis (Web sites set up to allow anyone to add or edit content), and podcasts, but also Really Simple Syndication (or rss), aggregators, social bookmarking, online photo galleries, and screencasting, all of which he defines and supplies examples for. Stressing the importance of online safety, he also gives guidance on teaching students how to use the Internet responsibly. Richardson emphasizes throughout that the Web is no longer simply a source for information, but also a means for collaboration to generate new information and make it available to others.

Youths and Society

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In her examination of what she calls “Generation Me”—young people born in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, so named because they’ve grown up under the self-esteem movement—Twenge finds that adolescents and young adults are focused on putting themselves first, and have been raised with the expectation that they will go to college and be economically successful. Their self-centeredness has resulted in loneliness and depression, she contends, joined by anxiety and cynicism when young people face declining college-acceptance rates, tightening job markets, and increasing costs for housing and health care. To counteract such negative trends, she urges schools to stop concentrating on students’ self-esteem and instead provide more practical college and career counseling. She also backs universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and the alignment of the school day with business hours as ways to financially help young, working parents dependent on paid child care.

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Published in response to the commonly perceived crisis in adolescent literacy, this collection of essays, poems, speeches, and radio journals by teenagers is intended to motivate students to use language critically, and to view reading and writing as opportunities to question and shape the world around them. The compositions were selected by the book’s youth editorial board as being among the most distinctive work from that age group appearing in print, on Web sites, or on airwaves in the United States during the past three years. The authors run the gamut from winners of national student literary awards to recent immigrants still learning English, and many represent youths traditionally marginalized by race, class, and religion. The topics of their contributions are equally diverse, ranging from prison life to high-stakes testing to playing basketball with monks in Tibet. The book also contains an annotated list of magazines and Web sites that publish teenage work.