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February 1, 1996
Vol. 53
No. 5


The Universal Schoolhouse

The Universal Schoolhouse: Spiritual Awakening Through Education by James Moffett. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.
Learning should be centered on spiritual growth, says James Moffett. In The Universal Schoolhouse, he tries to imagine a path that avoids spiritual vacuity, but that doesn't lead to any explicit religious program. His solution is to offer a smorgasbord of cosmic perspectives.
Following the way of Ivan Illich, Moffett urges us to design education around personal learning programs, rather than around schools. We cannot be free, he says, until we take control of education away from the government. Our neglect of spiritual growth has made us a nation of immature and underdeveloped citizens, willing to let our young pass through childhood being bossed by agents of the state.
Though harshly critical of the collusion of business and government, Moffett places his faith in an “epic educational initiative” to develop decentralized community learning networks. These, he says, would consolidate, under the auspices of public education, the many social programs for such problems as unemployment, drug abuse, and crime. His vision is of a “master service” in which “each individual is attended to personally by many people for all aspects of her or his development” from “cradle to grave.”
Such a huge agglomeration of government-funded services, the author believes, will give each individual the opportunity to pursue a “customized education,” choosing from a plethora of offerings. Such opportunities will result in a decrease in many of our social problems, in Moffett's words, because “people who fulfill themselves tend to stop making trouble.”
Moffett's book is a harsh criticism of a system to which, in the end, he can imagine no real alternative. I appreciated very much the direction in which Moffett moves, but for my money his solution, though grandiose, remains quite timid.
Published by Jossey-Bass Inc., 350 Sansome St., San Francisco, CA 94104-1304. Price: $27.
—Reviewed by Michael Umphrey, Turtle Lake Special Alternative School, Polson, Montana.

Debunking the Myth

Debunking the Myth: Stories of African-American University Students by O. Gilbert Brown. Bloomington, Ind.: Phi Delta Kappa, 1994.
Brown uses qualitative research methodology to uncover the undergraduate experience of African-American students at a predominately white Midwestern university. In this book, he candidly addresses the nature, roots, and impact of myths surrounding African-American undergraduates.
He presents, for example, the myth of homogeneity, then dispels it by providing lucid portraits of 11 African-American students. Major themes of the book are (1) student connections with faculty, (2) peer-group interactions among black students, and (3) interactions among black and white students. Personal accounts also shed light on student access to resources and on graduation rates.
Debunking the Myth contributes to the growing body of qualitative literature describing African-American undergraduate experiences in white universities. The study includes information that will benefit teachers, researchers, administrators, and counselors interested in reshaping secondary programs. Insights from this book may enable them to provide a smoother transition for African-American students entering white universities and increase their graduation rates.
Published by Phi Delta Kappa, P.O. Box 789, Bloomington, IN 47402-0789. Price: $10.
—Reviewed by Marian White-Hood, Prince George's (Maryland) County Public Schools.

Defying the Crowd

Defying the Crowd by Robert J. Sternberg and Todd I. Lubart. New York: The Free Press, 1995.
Why do so many of us hesitate to use creativity in our daily lives? The authors believe that although all of us have the capability to be creative, complex individual and environmental factors hold us back.
To clarify their point, Sternberg and Lubart liken the successful creative performance to following the investment strategy of “buying low and selling high.” In other words, pursue an idea or a stock currently out of favor with most people, and then sell when the idea or stock becomes valuable. Whether in the stock market or the job market, people who adopt this philosophy may experience serious hardship before their creativity eventually pays off, if it ever does.
Everyone who has experienced rejection of a creative initiative by those unable to see its utility should read this book. The authors discuss the influence of intelligence, knowledge, personality, motivation, and environment on creativity. Many extraordinary examples illustrate how a person's good idea and abundant persistence have benefited our lives.
I keep Defying the Crowd on my desk at all times. It is good to know that others understand what it feels like to live “in a culture of conformity.”
Published by The Free Press, 866, Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Price: $23.
—Reviewed by Brian Bottge, District 742 Community Schools, St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The Myth of the A.D.D. Child

The Myth of the A.D.D. Child: 50 Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior and Attention Span Without Drugs, Labels, or Coercion by Thomas Armstrong. New York: Dutton, 1995.
A psychologist, teacher, and consultant, Thomas Armstrong has years of experience working with children who have attention and behavior problems. His book is based on a well-founded belief that these children are at core fully intact, whole, and healthy human beings... that the best way [to help them] is to provide the kinds of nurturing, stimulating, and encouraging interventions that are good for all kids (p. xii).
Who could disagree with a statement like that? Well, for starters, plenty of people who have years of experience living and working with children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. But read on.
Armstrong argues persuasively that for attention deficit disorder has been inaccurately defined as a medical disorder. Why, unlike other medical diseases such as diabetes, asks Armstrong, does ADD “pop up in one setting, only to disappear in another?”
He explores ADD from several additional angles, for example, as a product of our short-attention-span culture: “When we look deeply into the core of the ADD movement, what we discover is as much a public relations effort as anything else.”
That's a powerful assertion. Armstrong, however, backs up his case with supporting data. If you're still following his logic after the first 50 pages, you'll find 50 holistic strategies to use in lieu of drugs or in combination with them. (He cites three criteria for deciding whether it is apporopriate to treat ADD with drugs.)
Armstrong devotes 3-5 pages to a discussion of each strategy. They range from such basic admonitions as providing a balanced diet and finding out what interests your child, to activating career aspirations and teaching self-talk skills. In the chapter on “Giving Your Child Choices,” he examines the possibly devastating consequences of loss of choice on a child. While some children will respond with rage, others “will quietly die a slow spiritual death as they find their personal voice ignored and forgotten.” He continues on an optimistic note, “The ability to choose is like a muscle. It gets strong through use.”
Loving or teaching a child with attention and behavioral difficulties on a bad day can confound the unflappable, but optimism can replace frustration if the child's potential is unveiled and nurtured. Ludwig van Beethoven, for example, was “subject to wild fits of rage.” Sarah Bernhardt was expelled from school three times, once for imitating a bishop. And Louis Armstrong—before finding his voice through music—lived in an institution for delinquent boys.
Using the author's strategies—which tackle the roots of a child's difficulties rather than treat the symptoms—parents and teachers can help children labeled ADD take the baby steps that will become adult steps in a world that needs their talents.
Published by Dutton, the Penguin Group, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. Price: $23.95.
—Reviewed by Jo Ann Irick Jones, Senior Associate Editor, Educational Leadership, ASCD.

Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education

Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education. James A. Banks and Cherry A. McGee, editors. New York: Macmillan, 1995.
The field of multicultural education has long needed a handbook of research and essays. Offered here is a landmark resource covering major theory and research of the past 30 years. Within one volume can be found writings by leading scholars, theorists, and practitioners in the field. Educators at all levels, students, and community leaders will find this an invaluable reference.
Each of the book's 11 parts discusses and synthesizes critical research and theory on a very focused aspect of multicultural education. For example, chapters in Part I describe history, goals, and other key issues. Other parts focus on research; the education of ethnic groups; and approaches, theories, and research on academic achievement, knowledge construction, language issues, international perspectives on multicultural education, and so forth.
Multicultural education is an intriguing, provocative, and easily misunderstood field of inquiry. The Handbook's purpose is to ground perception in clear thinking and good scholarship, and to disseminate this information to as many people as possible. It accomplishes these sweeping goals admirably.
Published by Macmillan, 866 Third Ave., New York, NY 10022. Price: $75.
—Reviewed by Jayne Osgood, Program Manager, ASCD Annual Conference.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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