In this examination of public engagement in the United States today, Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, argues that voter turnout is affected not only by people’s desire to protect their own interests—the view traditionally taken by political scientists—but by their feelings of civic obligation as well. Focusing on the latter, he explains how adults’ sense of public duty is to a large degree determined by the civic norms of the communities they lived in during their adolescence. He asserts that future voter turnout could therefore be increased significantly if high schools were to concentrate more on strengthening students’ civic commitment. To that end, Campbell recommends that schools give as much weight to civic education as to other subjects, redefine for students what a “normal” amount of public engagement is, and teach them the responsibilities of being part of a community.
Truitt, a teacher and school administrator for 43 years, was the superintendent of schools in Florence, S.C., when, during the 1990s, the district enacted a court-ordered integration plan. The catalyst for change, he writes, was the decision to replace an old, dilapidated, and primarily African-American elementary school. He recounts the conflict that ensued, which included contentious public and school board meetings, the NAACP’s twice filing suit against the district’s board of trustees, the redrawing of student-attendance zones, and a shake-up in the procedures for electing board members. Though the elementary school eventually was completed, and the district made substantial progress over the decade in desegregating its schools, the process exposed the community’s ongoing racial divisions. Truitt believes that such tensions are indicative of a growing discord between blacks and whites in South Carolina, and he concludes with a criticism of what he sees as the resegregation of schools in that state and across the nation.
A journalist, Miller first visited Kansas City (Mo.) Central High School at the request of its student body president, who was frustrated by its negative reputation in the news media. He found an inner-city school in which 99 percent of the students are members of minority groups, less than 1 percent score at the proficient level, and only one-third graduate, but which also is home to a prize-winning debate team that routinely beats nationally known competitors. Miller shadowed the team through its 2002 season and ultimately became an assistant coach as his involvement deepened. In this book, he describes the black debaters, their dedicated white coach, and the obstacles they faced, such as poverty, foster care, and a lack of support from school administrators and in the greater debate community. The team not only challenged its circumstances, but also took on the modern style of debate (in which high-speed recitation of evidence dominates) by emphasizing social issues and wordplay during matches. Miller’s account of the team’s year sheds light on both the state of urban education today and the status of an evolving academic sport.
A teacher in a remote Alaskan school on the verge of closure coaches Eskimo students to a first-place finish in a national academic championship.
Also of Note
An analysis of recurring themes in writing for children, from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter.
Ten education experts and the Nobel Prize-winning economist consider the 21st-century outlook for school choice.
The president of the University of Illinois system explains how combining cold-blooded decisionmaking with warmheartedness can enhance performance.
Soliciting and utilizing guidance from others.
A noted education reformer discusses system transformation at the school and community, district, and state levels.
Malapropisms from students of all ages on such weighty topics as love, religion, and missing homework.
Recommendations for improving offerings in food services, physical education, student counseling, and parent outreach.
A financial-aid expert for the popular scholarship-search Web site demystifies higher education financing.
A version of this article appeared in the November 15, 2006 edition of Education Week as New in Print