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September 1, 1992
Vol. 50
No. 1

Reviews

Free to Teach

Free to Teach by Joe Nathan. New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1991.
Anyone who has a stake in the school choice debate—and that includes just about everyone—will benefit from reading Joe Nathan's eloquently presented case for parent and student choice. For those who favor the proposal, the text provides a rich source of support. For those who oppose the plan, it provides insight. Free to Teach may even help those on each side of the issue find common ground to begin planning school reform. It will certainly affirm the notion that schools need to be better and that they can be if educators and parents work together free from unnecessary and cumbersome bureaucratic constraints.
Joe Nathan has prepared reports on choice plans for the National Governors' Association under the direction of then Governor of Tennessee and now Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. He now serves as a consultant to the Bush administration on the issue. Nathan's proposal for choice among schools is based on the rationale that: (1) there is no one best school for all students, families, and educators; (2) there is value in expanding educational opportunity to low and moderate income families; and (3) controlled competition can help stimulate improvement.
School choice by parents, students, and teachers has been a key educational and political issue of the '80s and early '90s. It is almost certain to continue to be debated well into the next decade. Joe Nathan has made a significant contribution to the dialogue.
Available from The Pilgrim Press, 475 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10115, for $16.95.
—Reviewed by Lowell Horton, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb.

Educating for Character

Educating for Character by Thomas Lickona. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
This is a splendid book. Sorry if I put the punch line before the story, but I just finished my reading and couldn't resist.
Lickona gives lots of practical ideas for teachers who would teach children respect, responsibility, and moral values generally. After 60 pages of background, he offers chapters on how a teacher can act as a moral caregiver, model, and mentor; create a moral community in a classroom; get a moral discipline system working; create a democratic classroom environment; use subject matter to teach values; tie cooperative learning into the process; develop student respect for quality workmanship; encourage moral reflections and discussions; and teach conflict resolution skills.
Thereafter follow chapters on schoolwide topics: taking care beyond the classroom and creating a school moral culture, working with parents, and dealing with the issues of sex and drugs. Not wishy-washy here, Lickona presents options and gives advice.
Throughout, the language is lively and realistic, with lots of detailed examples of possible lessons, specific guidelines for handling common problems, and references to names and addresses of demonstration programs.
Not that the book is flawless. It does not always find room to consider assumptions, such as the one behind the caution not to tell students that homosexuality is just an alternative sexual activity because, reports Lickona, “only 24 percent of American adults” endorse that position.
Also, the book summarizes too many different approaches to avoid some distortion. Values clarification, for example, is said to have “explicitly rejected” direct instruction of values. Rather, it merely claimed direct instruction was insufficient, that people also needed help in clarifying the confusions about the values of modern life.
But the main point: The book does what it does sensitively, splendidly. It provides a range of practical ideas for getting students to be smart citizens and, in addition, good citizens.
Available from Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10103, for $22.50.
—Reviewed by Merrill Harmin, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

Moral, Character, and Civic Education in the Elementary School

Moral, Character, and Civic Education in the Elementary School by Jacques S. Benninga. New York: Teachers College Press, 1991.
It is refreshing to see such an insightful, comprehensive book addressing the lack of ethics and morals in American society and the need to help children grow into informed citizens capable of shaping the future of democracy.
Moral, Character, and Civic Education in the Elementary School presents papers on two approaches to the issue: direct and indirect. Authors such as William Bennett and Edward Wynne argue for the direct approach, such as character education, which advocates imposing restraint and higher moral standards established by society.
Robert Howard and Thomas Lickona advocate the indirect approach, which provides a variety of alternatives and allows students to make their own choices.
The dilemma is, which of these points of view is right? Benninga has gathered authors who show how the two can coexist and support each other. Pereire describes American Law projects. Fox, McEvoy, and Day discuss special education programs that provide socialization skills. Valett addresses peace education and conflict resolution techniques.
Practical applications for methods of instruction and models of curricular programs that represent each side are also included.
Available from Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027, for $22.95.
—Reviewed by Elizabeth Manera, Arizona State University, Tempe.

Why Do These Kids Love School? (video)

Why Do These Kids Love School? Produced by Dorothy Fadiman. Menlo Park, Calif.: Concentria Media, 1990.
If I wanted my faculty to talk about how our school ought to be, I'd start with this videotape. I'd share its images of many schools, each different from the others, all showing children as active learners, teachers and principals as decision makers, and schools as supportive communities.
I'd follow up during the year, inviting dialogue about what these visions mean, whether we could put these ideas into practice at our school, and what would happen if we did. No doubt we'd have to look at the video more than once, because it contains so much and opens the door to hot topics like report cards and trusting teachers to teach.
Why Do These Kids Love School? opens with a brief overview of several schools before it settles into an in-depth exploration of Peninsula School in Menlo Park, California. The viewer is treated to classroom scenes where, for example, the teacher and the child, whose body the teacher is tracing onto a large paper, exchange glances of deep affiliation. We see students in class meetings confronting the problems of choosing teams (“I always get picked last”). We hear a mother say the school is an “ideal place for the family to be” [italics mine]. There is hands-on, turned-on learning in mathematics, social studies, language arts, science, and the arts. Always there is attention to developing children's confidence, children's abilities, teachers' autonomy, and teachers' imaginations.
Just as the viewer is about to sigh that Peninsula School is, after all, an exception, the video begins a long itinerary of schools characterized by optimism, inventiveness, determination, and success. From Central Park East in Harlem to City Magnet in Lowell, Massachusetts, to Clara Barton in Minneapolis to Davis Alternative in Jackson, Mississippi, there are schools pursuing independent and innovative visions. They don't promise all things to all people, but they serve their students, teachers, and communities, no matter what the color of the students or the amount of funding from the state.
What's important about this video is that it can lift our images of the possible into the realm of shared experience and common vocabulary and thereby help us to transform what's happening in our own backyards.
Available from Pyramid Film & Video, Box 1048, Santa Monica, CA 90406-1048 (1-800-421-2304), for $95. (57 minutes.) A Study Guide is also available, containing suggestions for use and names and addresses of the schools.
—Reviewed by Anne Meek, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Virginia Beach, Va.

Implementing Cognitive Strategy Training Across the School

Implementing Cognitive Strategy Training Across the School: The Benchmark Manual for Teachers by Irene Gaskins and Thorne Elliot. Cambridge, Mass.: Brookline Books, 1991.
Students who attend Benchmark School, a private school in Pennsylvania, are taught to process content from all curricular areas so that it is meaningful and can be remembered and integrated into their previous knowledge. This book describes the research upon which the Benchmark program is based and the content and process of the curriculum.
Using excerpts from transcripts in several teachers' classrooms, chapters detail instructional practices. The history of Benchmark School is chronicled, and the theoretical basis for the school's instructional practices is discussed. The authors also share insights about how Benchmark School dealt with the process of change.
It might be best to begin reading the book where classroom implementation is described (Chapter 6), saving the early theoretical chapters for later. The manual contains an annotated list of strategies and an extensive bibliography, which could be useful in developing a program.
Available from Brookline Books, P.O. Box 1046, Cambridge, MA 02238, for $24.95.
—Reviewed by Janet Bergman, Potomac, Md.

Becoming a Principal

Becoming a Principal: The Challenges of Beginning Leadership by Forrest W. Parkay and Gene E. Hall. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1992.
The role of the principal as the key to school improvement and as the instructional leader in effective schools has been widely recognized. However, until recently, little attention has been given to what happens to new principals on the job or to how they become the successful leaders schools need.
Becoming a Principal shares the results gathered by a research team studying 12 new high school principals—from the time they were employed through their first year in the job. Leadership theory and research on topics such as developing school culture and initiating change are considered through the perspectives of the real situations principals face. Through an in-depth look at their crises and triumphs, the principals studied seem like real colleagues to the reader.
The need for the new principal to have wisdom that can be gained only from experience has been a perplexing paradox. Now Becoming a Principal provides a powerful, engaging way through which prospective principals can gain vicarious experience from high school principals going through their first year on the job.
Available from Allyn and Bacon, Mail Order Processing Center, P.O. Box 11071, Des Moines, IA 50336-1071, for $38.95.
—Reviewed by Carolyn Hughes Chapman, University of Nevada, Reno.

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

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