Opinion
Education Commentary

New in Print

By Anne E. Das — April 24, 2007 5 min read

Gender

This book by two scholars of educational leadership presents the findings of a study on women and the superintendency commissioned by the American Association of School Administrators. Drawing inspiration from Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” the authors set out to discover why some women strive to become superintendents while others prefer to remain assistant, associate, or deputy superintendents. Going directly to the source, they sent out surveys to every female superintendent in the country and numerous top-level female central-office administrators. Just under 1,200 responded, resulting in the largest amount of information ever gathered in such a study, they say, including the most ever compiled from high-ranking minority female administrators. The two groups’ backgrounds, demographics, motivations, and views of the superintendency, among other factors, are compared, with age, parental status, perceptions of career barriers, and education receiving especially close attention. The authors also give detailed profiles of women superintendents as a whole and minority women superintendents and administrators in particular. What emerges from their analysis is a clearer picture of women standing before a long-understudied professional crossroads.

The founding director of an all-girls school recounts its early years and makes the case for single-sex education.

A professor of African-American and diaspora studies examines the appeal of a male-dominated, often misogynistic culture.

The Internet

The author of the blog YPulse.com, a source of information on young people for marketers and the media, Goodstein seeks to calm adults’ anxieties over youths’ Internet use by shedding light on the sites and Web-based activities most popular among middle- and high-school-age students. She begins by reminding grown-ups that there have long been fears about popular culture’s corrupting influence on adolescents, be it through their listening to podcasts or to Elvis. Teenagers engage in largely the same behavior their parents did, she argues, just in a different format—congregating on social-networking sites instead of at the park, for example. Goodstein does address the technology’s modern risks, however, offering guidance on dangers such as cyberbullying, illegal downloading, and online predators. But she stresses that the digital media’s emerging applications are ultimately more positive than negative, pointing to increased opportunities for youth activism and new ways for teenagers to express themselves creatively. One chapter focuses on schools and the common issues of technology-aided cheating and questionable Internet research, among others. Though geared toward parents, the book’s insights can be useful to any adult trying to bridge the digital generation gap.

Advice for parents on setting online boundaries.

A teacher and co-founder of a private high school explains the pluses and perils of social-networking sites.

Race and Education

The president of Spelman College in Atlanta, Tatum here offers a collection of essays adapted from speeches she gave in 2006 as the inaugural speaker for the Simmons College/Beacon Press “Race, Education, and Democracy” lecture and book series. Born in 1954, she recounts growing up during integration and contrasts it to what she sees as the nation’s modern shift away from the ideals of Brown v. Board of Education. She suggests that while the federal No Child Left Behind Act has been successful in exposing achievement gaps between races, the ongoing problems of tracking, testing, and low expectations for black students are often overlooked in the debate over why such discrepancies occur. To raise achievement, she proposes, schools should provide professional development that teaches educators to examine their unconscious beliefs about race. Going beyond K-12 education, Tatum also looks at the role of universities and cross-racial friendships in creating a democratic, desegregated society. Conversations about race can be awkward or even painful, she writes, but the potential to bring about social change through educational institutions and relationships far outweighs any such discomfort.

A memoir of a white, Northern 21-year-old’s first year of teaching in rural Virginia.

Criticizes the No Child Left Behind Act and the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling in Abbott v. Burke as widening the gap between white and minority students.

Reading

Pearl, a Seattle librarian and book reviewer, continues in the tradition of her widely popular Book Lust and More Book Lust—compilations of annotated lists of suggested reading, organized by theme—with this volume consisting solely of children’s and young-adult books. Divided into three sections (“Easy Books,” “Middle-Grade Readers,” and “Teen Readers”), it contains more than 100 groupings, with over 1,000 books described. A sampling of categories includes “Stop Bugging Me: Insects Galore” (easy), “In the Footsteps of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys” (middle), and “Not Your Parents’ Comic Books” (teenage). Pearl’s tone is chatty—she calls Polly Horvath’s The Trolls, for example, “one of those books that teaches an important truth without hitting the child over the head with it”—and she also gives advice on winning over reluctant readers, including the surprising counsel that children should be encouraged to abandon books they’re not enjoying before they’ve finished them. A valuable resource for teachers, parents, and school librarians.

Also of Note

A biography of the renowned chef best known by educators as the mind behind the Edible Schoolyard movement.

A professor of education and economics calls into question American beliefs about government, free markets, and autonomy with respect to schooling.

Explores collaboration between higher education and neighborhood schools as a means of realizing John Dewey’s “Great Community.”

A collection of essays outlining the holistic-schooling beliefs of 10 eminent educational thinkers from around the globe.

Chastises business and political interests as putting their own gain above children’s learning.

An evaluation of the federal legislation at age 5, with recommendations for making it better.

The internationally recognized writer and critic assembles his life’s work in this anthology, 40 years in the making, of over 100 previously unpublished biographical essays of influential 20th-century writers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers.

A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2007 edition of Education Week as New in Print