TEACHERS FOR OUR NATION'S SCHOOLS, by John Goodlad. (Jossey-Bass, $21.95.) In this meticulously researched volume, Goodlad, author of the landmark A Place Called School, concludes that schools can't be improved until we completely revamp the way we train teachers. Teacher training is a low priority in even the best colleges and universities. Worse, it is stultifyingly anti-intellectual: Teachers are taught narrow methodologies, and important pedagogical techniques are disseminated in lecture form, not through discussion and practice. Such shoddy training not only embitters future teachers, but it also gives them the false impression that teaching is mastering a set of techniques. Goodlad insists, however, that teachers must learn to think critically about their profession and the schools they teach in. And if they want to effect change, they must be able to question the very things they are taught. Goodlad would like to see education schools structured along the lines of medical schools, where students, trained in theory and procedures, are equipped to make new discoveries. While Goodlad's case for more rigorous education schools is convincing, one sadly wonders if such a new form of teacher training would do much good. Are school boards and administrators ready to listen to teachers trained as social and educational critics?
THE PREDICTABLE FAILURE OF EDUCATIONAL REFORM, by Seymour Sarason. (Jossey-Bass, $21.95.) Early on in this important book, Sarason makes a surprising, seemingly paradoxical, statement: "[T]hese are dangerous times for education precisely because education is once again near the top of the national agenda.'' What this means, Sarason explains, is that even the best-intended reforms will do more harm than good if they focus on single issues (curriculum and desegregation, for example) instead of confronting "existing power relationships'' between administrators, teachers, students, and parents. These relationships, Sarason claims, are so rigidly hierarchal and coercive that reforms are passed on like papal decrees, from reluctant principals to reluctant teachers to even more reluctant students. But no one can "order'' reform, Sarason says, and such heavy-handed attempts only generate even greater animosities. Is there a way out? Sarason is pessimistic. Over and over again, he refers to the "intractability'' of the educational system, and describes its near-manic resistance to change. The only hope, he says, is for cooperation to replace coercion. But this, Sarason bleakly concludes, is unlikely. Cooperation-- which demands that all parties work as equals and not as adversaries--threatens the entrenched power of everyone from school boards to teachers' unions.
TEXTBOOKS AND SCHOOLING IN THE UNITED STATES, edited by David Elliot and Arthur Woodward. (University of Chicago Press, $19.95.) This volume looks at American textbooks from various historical, educational, economic, and cultural perspectives. The news is all bad. Most textbooks are lifeless and unreadable, and the authors of most of the articles in this book say it will take a long time for them to get better. Bad textbooks, they argue, serve the needs of publishers eager to serve inadequately prepared teachers and self-protective bureaucracies. The only group that fails to profit is the students. The overriding problem seems to be an educational system that banishes controversy, even though real learning can't take place without it. To alter this pitiful state of affairs, the authors make several suggestions, including greater teacher autonomy in developing curricula and less reliance on textbooks.--David Ruenzel
The reviewer, former chairman of the English department at University Lake School in Hartland, Wis., is on leave to write a novel.