Education Opinion

New in Print

By Anne E. Das — June 06, 2006 5 min read
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Julius Rosenwald

Although he was one of the most highly regarded philanthropists of the early 20th century, Julius Rosenwald is relatively unknown today, says Ascoli, a grandson of Rosenwald and a faculty member in the department of nonprofit management at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. He recounts how Rosenwald made his fortune as the president of Sears, Roebuck and Co., and then gave away nearly a third of his wealth to a variety of causes. One such effort was the establishment of “Rosenwald schools” for African-Americans: Working in partnership with Booker T. Washington, Rosenwald built 5,357 schools, shops, and teachers’ homes in 15 Southern states. A high school dropout himself, a fact that troubled him all his life, writes Ascoli, Rosenwald saw education as a means of bringing African-Americans out of poverty. His commitment to racial equality was such that W.E.B. Du Bois said of him: “He was a great man. But he was no mere philanthropist. He was, rather, the subtle stinging critic of our racial democracy.”

Civic Education

Citizenship Under Fire

Drawing on examples from Israel, where she was raised, and the United States, Ben-Porath, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate school of education, discusses what she perceives as the role that civic education should play in furthering peace during a period of war. She asserts that a nation’s concept of good citizenship changes during times of conflict, as increased emphasis is placed on patriotism and unity, and cautions educators against teaching this view, reminding them that the job of public schools is to create citizens, not soldiers. Finding other theories of education—peace education, feminist pedagogy, and multicultural education—only partly effective in addressing the culture of wartime, Ben-Porath presents her own theory of “expansive education,” which she hopes will cultivate students’ appreciation of peace.


Critical Lessons

Noddings, a professor of education emerita at Stanford University and a former public school teacher and administrator, warns that high schools are not teaching students to think reflectively about issues that will have the greatest impact on their adult lives. She calls for more attention to such topics as the choice or rejection of religion, the psychological effects of participating in war, parenting and homemaking, the impact of advertising and consumerism on society, and selection of a profession. Throughout, she stresses that for young people to be truly educated, they must acquire self-knowledge, as well as understand the moral implications of the everyday decisions they will face. Noddings also briefly explores how teacher education can be reformed to advance critical thinking in the high school curriculum.


America: The Last Best Hope

U.S. secretary of education under President Reagan and currently the host of a nationally broadcast radio show, Bennett offers what he describes as a “reasoned, balanced presentation of the American story,” from 1492 to 1914. He explains in the introduction that his primarily goal in writing this book was to rekindle Americans’ faith in their country’s greatness; other motivators include his desire to promote patriotism, honor significant historical figures, and encourage young people’s interest in history. Bennett draws inspiration for his style of writing from recent popular biographies and histories such as Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin and David McCullough’s 1776, which he praises as being both educational and entertaining. Publishers Weekly describes this book as one “best suited for a high school or home-schooled audience searching for a general, conservative-minded textbook.”


An Incomplete Education

Updated for the first time in 10 years, this cultural-literacy encyclopedia became an instant best-seller when it was first published in 1987. Like its predecessors, this edition is divided into 12 chapters that correspond to core college disciplines, such as economics, political science, and religion; its treatment of international issues has been particularly expanded. The volume’s irreverent tone remains unchanged, however, along with its invitation to “spend quality time with the books, music, art, philosophy, and discoveries that have, for one reason or another, managed to endure.”

Teacher Training

Powerful Teacher Education

Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University, singles out seven teacher education programs as being among the most successful in the nation at graduating skilled teachers well prepared to serve a variety of learners. She outlines the curriculum, methods, and goals of the seven—Alverno College; Bank Street College of Education; Trinity University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Southern Maine; the University of Virginia; and Wheelock College—to demonstrate what effective teacher training, as she views it, looks like in practice, and describes the institutional policies and resources underlying those programs. Outstanding teachers are not simply born, but can be made, she avers, provided they have access to strong preparation. To that end, Darling-Hammond advances a policy agenda for making high-quality teacher education more widely available.


The Invisible Safety Net

In-kind programs have long been neglected in discussions of the welfare system in the United States, declares Currie, a professor of economics at Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles. She argues that such types of assistance—food and nutrition programs, including school-based ones; Head Start and subsidized child care; Medicaid; and public housing—form a largely invisible but essential social safety net that is more effective than cash-based welfare in aiding low-income children and their families. Currie examines such programs individually and proposes changes for both strengthening them and integrating more fully the network they constitute. At a time when funding and other support for public assistance is shrinking, she contends, the profile of this safety net must be raised, lest it be dismantled before its importance is realized.

Youths and Resiliency

Out of the Woods

In their study of 70 young adults who had been institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital during adolescence, the authors—scholars of psychiatry and psychology—strive to discover how a small number of them ultimately went on to lead emotionally healthy and successful lives. Four such formerly troubled teenagers are the focus of this book, and interviews with them, conducted over 12 years, while they were hospitalized and after their release, are reconstructed in detail. The authors find that the resilient adolescents in their study had some traits in common: They recognized that their behavior contributed to their problems, they attempted to make sense of their experiences, and they were interested in building relationships with other people. The authors stress that these characteristics should be fostered in all teenagers, and conclude with recommendations on doing so for teachers, parents, and policymakers.

A version of this article appeared in the June 07, 2006 edition of Education Week as New in Print


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