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September 1, 2000
Vol. 58
No. 1

Reviews

Will Standards Save Public Education?

Will Standards Save Public Education? by Deborah Meier; Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.
Will Standards Save Public Education? offers a feisty, informative debate between Deborah Meier and seven prominent educators about the role of standards in education and in a democracy. In the opening essay, Meier, principal of the Mission Hill School in Boston, argues that standards-based educational reform threatens to undermine schools and democratic principles by turning teachers and parents into "the local instruments of externally imposed expert judgment." Arguing for more, not less, local control, she promotes an alternative model in which schools, families, and communities determine their own standards, in dialogue with the "larger world."
In subsequent chapters, Meier's respondents agree that standards are needed, but their debate centers on central issues such as, Who decides what the standards are? How are standards implemented? How are schools held accountable? What are the consequences of failure? Abigail Thernstrom, Meier's harshest critic, claims that Massachusetts has already seen signs of improvement as a result of the new state standards and that Meier places too much trust in local constituencies. Bob Chase, Gary Nash, and Richard Murnane each agree with Meier's critiques of existing reform efforts, but they believe that the standards movement can work better than she allows. Linda Nathan, William Ayers, and Theodore Sizer side with Meier in rejecting mandated standards in favor of leaving important decisions about teaching in teachers' hands. The contributors do not reach agreements about the issues, but the disagreements themselves reflect a quality that Meier cherishes: the healthy tension inherent in any democracy.
Published by Beacon Press, 25 Beacon St., Boston, MA 02108-2892. Price: $12.
—Reviewed by Heidi Goodrich Andrade, Ohio University, College of Education, Athens, Ohio.

High-Tech Heretic

High-Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong in the Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian by Clifford Stoll; New York: Doubleday, 1999.
In this book, Clifford Stoll argues against the classroom use of computers. Without focusing so much on computers, teachers can get back to real education and stop wasting time, money, and young minds on the foolishness of computers, he says.
Stoll puts forth a solid case. He discusses most of the major arguments that justify and promote the use of computers in education and shows these arguments to be well-meaning, but misguided, tomfoolery. The author trashes some software and criticizes the mushy-headed ways that some uncomprehending teachers misuse computers in their classrooms.
Up to a point, this is valuable stuff. Some of Stoll's well-thought-out arguments could serve as a reality check for those who have plunged into the world of instructional technology without reflecting on the appropriateness of technology and its applications. But in his zeal to make a winning argument, Stoll throws out the gems as well as the junk. He reports on no instructional practice through which educators are using computers to improve instruction.
Published by Doubleday, 1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. Price: $24.95.
—Reviewed by Mark Gura, Director, Office of Instructional Technology, Board of Education of the City of New York.

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

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