In many ways, the win-win principle underscores school-to-work, a new system that's taking hold across the country. Lynn Olson, reporter for Education Week, has spent the past year traveling and investigating school-to-work programs. According to her, schools and businesses join forces with a certain amount of civic responsibility. But, Olson reminds us, both schools and businesses have self-interests and an expectation that, through their shared venture, they'll come out as winners.
In cities with school-to-work systems in place—such as Tulsa, Oklahoma; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Cambridge, Massachusetts—kids spread out into the community during the school day in apprenticeships, mentorships, and job shadowing. In some instances, students work side-by-side with nurses, engineers, designers, and stockbrokers. The payoff to schools? According to school administrators and teachers, kids who see connections between classroom learning and the workplace are more eager to learn, and because they see a purpose to learning, they're more likely to stay in school.
For businesses, the payoff is partly public relations. But businesses can benefit in ways other than letting kids come through the doors of their shops, factories, and corporate headquarters. In some cases, businesses capitalize on the opportunity to fill labor shortages with what one business leader calls a "home-grown workforce." In other cases, businesses use their links with schools to recruit minority students to increase workplace diversity.
Perhaps school-to-work will erase what Robert Reich, former U.S. Labor Secretary, calls the "fault line" in education which now, as never before in the U.S. economy, "divides winners from losers." Lynn Olson's text shows that school-to-work can be a win-win for everyone.
Published by Addison Wesley Longman, One Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867. Price: $24.
—Reviewed by Susan Black, Hammondsport, New York.
Kids and School Reform
Kids and School Reform by Patricia Wasley, Robert L. Hampel, and Richard C. Clark. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
When the adults in American high schools make far-reaching changes, what happens to kids? Do these changes improve student learning? Although one might expect this three-year examination of five high schools in the Coalition of Essential Schools to be dominated by charts, graphs, and statistical analyses, readers instead encounter a text developed from careful listening to learners.
The authors followed six students from sophomore through senior years. The pace is lively. The kids in the study, easily recognizable to those of us who work daily in schools, relate their own experience of teachers' efforts to practice reform. The rapid, always-readable survey touches on the everyday problems of fostering improvement: the superficiality of mere exposure to new ideas; the preference many teachers have of being left alone; and the use of innovation divorced from the needs of students. The observations are straightforward, unbiased, unsettling, and sometimes disturbing. Still, the tone remains positive, and the outlook hopeful. With its emphasis on the real people involved, this book gets readers thinking about the impact of reform on kids—and offers some excellent advice in the bargain.
Published by Jossey-Bass, Inc., 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104. Price: $34.95.
—Reviewed by Donald Wesley, Orchard Park High School, Orchard Park, New York.
The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling
The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling. John I. Goodlad and Timothy J. McMannon, editors. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
The symbiotic relationship between democracy and education is the major message of this collection of papers edited by Goodlad and McMannon. The book is a product of a symposium of the same title, chaired by Goodlad at a Conference of the National Network for Educational Renewal. The six papers, presented by prominent educators (Benjamin Barber, Linda Darling-Hammond, Gary Fenstermacher, Donna Kerr, Ted Sizer, and Roger Soder), address topics such as the links between public education and democracy, equity and the right to learn, civics and citizenship, and the prospects of successful education reform.
Public education today in western democratic societies is under increasing pressure from economic rationalist policies. The proponents of these policies push for greater school-work links and want public schooling to be seen in the narrower role of preparing human resource units for the workplace. There is little regard for broader roles such as civics and citizenship, or as Gary Fenstermacher suggests, "civility and civitas." The six core chapters of the book are short and readable. They take us back to the big questions: What is the basic purpose of public education? What benefits does it bring society? How do we know when we achieve such outcomes?
Reflecting on the relationship between education and democracy, Goodlad states, "As goes a nation's education infrastructure so goes its democracy" (p. 157). The main theme of this book, he writes, is "We must take care of one another" and give greater attention to the "moral civil arts." The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling is an essential resource for those grappling with policy, history, and politics in education.
Published by Jossey-Bass Inc., 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104. Price: $36.
—Reviewed by Robert G. Baker, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.
Raising Lifelong Learners
Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent's Guide by Lucy Calkins with Lydia Bellino. Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley Longman, 1997.
When Lucy Calkins shares her parenting strategies, her audience should include not only parents of young children, but also all who care about children's literacy.
This book, couched as parent-to-parent sharing, focuses on the author's belief that "talk is . . . life" (p. 8) and "it's not happening enough in our homes" (p. 12). The author advocates building literacy rituals into family life, including the establishment of home nesting sites for reading; family reading, writing, science and math projects; daily writing in a family notebook; family travel stories; set times for reading; teaching children social conversational skills; parent-child shared reading; providing even young children with the trappings (pens, stationery) of literacy; and creative playtime, including family deconstruction of appliances.
Calkins, in collaboration with Lydia Bellino, a primary school principal, sets out to help parents who are "trying to do things right" (p. 3) by offering ample tips, resources, and "child" samples. The book addresses the key literacy concerns of parents, including: whole language and phonics issues; invented spelling; age- and grade-appropriate reading and writing genre study; and good work habits. Appendices feature testing and assessment, parent involvement, selection of a preschool or kindergarten, and evaluating school curriculum.
Readers will find this a rich, comforting, and informative resource to be read not once, but again and again as a reference tool.
Published by Addison Wesley Longman, One Jacob Way, Reading MA 01867. Price: $24.
—Reviewed by Rose Reissman, New York, New York.
Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood. Shirley R. Steinberg and Joe L. Kincheloe, editors. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997.
From Barbie to McDonald's, video games to Disney movies, this important collection of 14 articles scrutinizes the commercial forces that shape children's culture. Editors Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe observe that despite the extensive research on issues such as reading performance, we have avoided studying the culture of children. This book considers the "cultural curriculum" that kids experience through television, videos, magazines, and the Internet. What distinguishes today's cultural curriculum, the editors contend, is that corporations do not operate for the social good, but for their own individual gain.
This book comes at a critical point in our cultural history, and it is worthy of study by all who work with children. Although accessible, this collection of articles does use a formal tone as it draws on research studies. Kinderculture prompts serious reflection on what we are doing to our society and, more important, our children.
Published by Westview Press, 5500 Central Avenue, Boulder, CO 80301. Price: $50, hardcover; $29.70, paperback.
—Reviewed by Jim Burke, Burlingame High School, Burlingame, California.
Channel Surfing: Race Talk and the Destruction of Today's Youth by Henry A. Giroux. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.
Henry Giroux's latest book argues that our media culture is a powerful teaching technology and that educators and parents must enable students to critically analyze its limiting and stereotypical images. Giroux provokes and inspires us to help students "reconceptualize themselves as citizens" and "fight for important social and political issues that affect their lives, bodies, and society" (p. 31).
Educators familiar with Giroux will find Channel Surfing a refreshing departure from the challenging theoretical language of his previous works. This accessibility is important because the skills needed to critique media culture are not part of most teachers' professional education. Channel Surfing can also help educators confront the increasingly hostile depictions of poor, urban youth that are an all-too-common feature of our media-oriented society.
Reflecting on his school experience, Giroux writes, "Because we were tracked into dead-end courses, schools became a form of dead-time for most of us" (p. 8). If educators want to help youth develop the critical skills necessary to survive in a hostile culture, we must devote time and energy during the school day toward that end. Giroux echoes the late Paulo Freire, who believed, "The teaching of the reading and writing of the word to a person missing the critical exercise of reading and rereading the world, is scientifically, politically, and pedagogically crippled."
Giroux argues that the struggle for democratic practices must be extended to our media culture, and he uses examples from a variety of media to demonstrate how images and stories both reflect and magnify negative cultural attitudes toward youth. The effects of such characterization have a profound impact on the day-to-day lives of young people. Educators have a special responsibility to critique the growing "commodification" of youth. As Giroux illustrates, children are not only bombarded by the "desire-creating media," but worse, they are increasingly used to market the products of desire.
Giroux's conclusions are guaranteed to generate debate. However, the larger issue is not whether one agrees with Giroux, but whether one is able to use critical skills in a liberating fashion to understand our powerful media culture.
Published by St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010. Price: $22.95.
—Reviewed by Michael Ludwig, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, and Don Ernst, ASCD, Alexandria, Virginia.
Education, Inc.: Turning Learning into a Business. Alfie Kohn, editor. Arlington Heights, Ill.: IRI/Skylight Training and Publishing, Inc., 1997.
With these articles, Kohn fires a volley across the bow of corporate CEOs and politicians who would remake schools in the image of business. He sets the stage in his introduction: Ultimately, the goals of business are not the same as those of educators. This simple truth, which lies at the heart of the present book, is one that educators forget at their peril—or, more precisely, at the peril of their students.
Education, Inc. does not pretend to be a balanced treatment of issues sur-rounding the supposed failure of edution, advertising in the schools, the application of business techniques to education, or the privatization of public schools. Rather, the book challenges the conventional wisdom created by those who use such catchwords as measurable, world class, accountability, standards, and competitiveness.
The book is divided into four sections. The articles in section one challenge "the big lie" that schools are somehow at fault for the country's loss of corporate productivity and competitiveness. These authors claim that business has no one to blame but itself and that government willingness to give tax breaks to attract business deprives schools of resources they require to properly educate all chidren.
Contributors to section two argue persuasively that Channel One, free corporate materials, and an unquestioning commitment to the latest tecnology are the products of one-sided partnerships in which businesses use schools to make a buck. Authors in the third section look at the dangers of confusing learning with working. Those in section four tackle the devastating potential of privatization and vouchers.
Occasionally an article appears out of place in this book, and at times the rhetoric seems overstated. Taken together, however, the selections offer a welcome critique of a view that dominates the current political discourse about education. Educators of all stripes and persuasions would do well to consider these arguments.
Published by IRI/Skylight Training and Publishing, Inc., 2626 S. Clearbrook Dr., Arlington Heights, IL 60005. Price: $22.95.
—Reviewed by Terry Beck, Federal Way Public Schools, Federal Way, Washington.