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Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us


Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us

Why School? is a little book driven by big questions. What does it mean to be educated? What is intelligence? How should we think about intelligence, education, and opportunity in an open society? Drawing on forty years of teaching and research and “a profound understanding of the opportunities, both intellectual and economic, that come from education” (Booklist), award-winning author Mike Rose reflects on these and other questions related to public schooling in America. He answers them in beautifully written chapters that are both rich in detail and informed by an extensive knowledge of history, the psychology of learning, and the politics of education.

This paperback edition includes three new chapters showing how cognitive science actually narrows our understanding of learning, how to increase college graduation rates, and how to value the teaching of basic skills. An updated introduction by Rose, who has been hailed as “a superb writer and an even better storyteller” (TLN Teachers Network), reflects on recent developments in school reform. Lauded as “a beautifully written work of literary nonfiction” (The Christian Science Monitor) and called “stunning” by the New Educator Journal, Why School? offers an eloquent call for a bountiful democratic vision of the purpose of schooling.

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What customers say about Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us?

  1. 35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A Heartfelt Plea for Rethinking Public Education, September 11, 2009
    By 
    Deborah Hicks (Hillsborough, NC USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    If you are already a fan of Mike Rose’s earlier books (Lives on the Boundary, Possible Lives, The Mind at Work), you will love this exquisite book of essays that revisits themes from his earlier writing, and yet pulls them together in a fresh and highly accessible way. If you have not yet read Rose’s earlier work, this is a wonderful introduction. The civil rights leader Robert Moses once said of education that it is the civil rights agenda of our new cultural and economic times. What Rose poignantly argues in this book is that we have fallen shamefully short of achieving this new civil rights agenda: educational equality in public schools across America. This is not just in spite of the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, the bill that was intended to equalize education and help all students succeed. It is in part because of NCLB, with its unintended effect of narrowing the language and curriculum of public education. We have lost our way, argues Rose throughout this book. We have lost the fullness of public school teaching that focuses on critical and imaginative thinking, and that makes room for the rich diversity of American cultural life and thought. It is easy to offer a critique that tells us where we have gone astray, but Rose takes things one important step further in this collection. He shows through story and his own lyrical style of essayist commentary how things would look if they were different. What readers will find in this small but incredibly important book is a vision for public education that takes us beyond reductive dichotomies and narrow ways of thinking and acting. This is an important moment for public education in America, and Rose’s voice is a critical one for helping us creatively rethink how education can become truly democratic.
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  2. 21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Towards a more “egalitarian philosophy of education”, October 3, 2009
    By 
    Shirin Vossoughi (los angeles, CA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    What is the purpose of schooling in a democracy? Through the masterful blending of public policy debates with personal and ethnographic narrative, “Why School?” refocuses our collective attention on this fundamental question. In this powerful collection of essays, Mike Rose carefully explicates the central issues that characterize educational discourse in the United States: standards, accountability, remediation, intelligence, work and equity. But what makes this book special is the way he does it. Rose’s treatment of each of these issues – his thoughtful disentangling of political rhetoric to articulate the essential questions we ought to be thinking about – reflects and offers the kind of “fresh language” he urges us to join him in creating. What does opportunity look and feel like? What is the value of a standard or assessment and how can we re-organize learning so that these become tools rather than rigid ends? How can we rethink oversimplified dichotomies (hand vs. mind, academic vs. everyday, policy vs. practice) in the service of a more “egalitarian philosophy of education?” While questioning narrow, purely economic discussions of schooling, Rose leaves no nuance or counterargument unexamined, building a compelling case for what we should be most concerned with: the social, cognitive, emotional and existential dimensions of human development, and the conditions that provide all students the opportunity to grow. In this sense, “Why School?” spills out beyond education, serving as a model for careful thinking and writing about a wide range of social issues.

    Though Rose’s “Why School?” rightly sounds the alarm on the discourse we use to talk about education and the very notion of the “public,” its concrete magic lies in helping us think clearly about what we mean when we talk about good teaching. This is what we have come to expect from Mike Rose, dignified portraits of the tremendous wisdom, effort, struggle and potential that constitutes life in America’s schools and workplaces. I recommend this book for anyone involved in the work of human development in its most expansive sense. This is a text that works on you, altering, improving and ultimately, humanizing the ways we see and experience the moment-to-moment social relations that lie at the heart of education.

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  3. 11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A refreshing vision for democratic education, October 7, 2009
    By 
    Ashley Chu
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Why School? addresses American public education in a humanizing, refreshing manner. Mike Rose candidly acknowledges the flaws and difficulties of our education system, and offers meaningful insight into how we need to address these challenges to reform the system. Through a collection of short but compelling essays, Mike Rose discusses a number of important topics, such as education policy, the role of business in education, the workplace, standards, and remediation. His discussion of these topics provide a much-needed narrative for why we educate–one that moves beyond the language of standards and accountability, and instead progresses toward one that appreciates the intellectual value of students and encourages their social and civic growth and development. This book makes a powerful contribution to education literature, but is suited for educators and non-educators alike. It provides a revitalizing vision for education in a democracy.
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