BOOKS CHECKED OUT | By JANET CLAPP
Another school year has begun. The flurries of activity to purchase clean notebooks, to sharpen pencils, to buy clothes for the first day have passed, and now students, teachers, bus drivers, and parents are settling into familiar routines. You may not be the parent of a child in school or a school system employee, but all of us are affected by the quality of education in this country. The students of today will be the doctors, mechanics, leaders and citizens of tomorrow. There is a plethora of books about education and, not surprisingly, they don’t always agree on the best policy. There are books for parents about how to help your child maneuver through the school system and memoirs of life in the classroom that can make you wail and smile.
“School Sense: How to Help Your Child Succeed in Elementary School”
by Tiffani Chin
This book doesn’t argue policy or teaching philosophy. Instead it offers common-sense advice to parents. From choosing a school to helping with homework to communicating with schools, this book can be a helpful aid to parents who aren’t sure what their role is in the educational process. As the author says, “The point of this book is to show you, as a parent, how to make the most of the hard work you put into your children’s education—to show you how to get the greatest payoff, in terms of your child’s grades, test scores, and love of learning, from every single hour you spend helping your child with homework, attending parent-teacher conferences, and even helping out at the school car wash.”
“The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling”
by Quinn Cummings
Actress and author Cummings shares her amusing exploration into the world of homeschooling. She travels to a conference of Radical Unschoolers, who believe in complete freedom and a lack of structure. She attends a fundamentalist homeschool convention where God is omnipresent in the textbooks. Meanwhile, Cummings faces her own shortcomings in subjects such as the math that she is supposed to be teaching her child. “I had been homeschooling my daughter for two whole days and found myself suddenly, brutally aware of how completely unqualified I was for this assignment.” Cummings must also contend with the opinions of others. “Over the seven months that we’d been homeschooling, the questions about socialization had not abated. Wherever we went, people continued to broach the topic, their tone of deep concern sometimes offset by a faint whiff of snideness. And at least half the time, by question three, they’d be asking about prom, which always seemed unnecessarily foresightful considering how Alice was closer to nap age than prom age.” She and her daughter learn a great deal during one homeschooling year.
“Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools”
by Diane Ravitch
Former assistant Secretary of Education Ravitch argues against No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top policies. She offers statistics and studies to disprove the myths about American education that are often repeated in the media. “In this book, I show that the schools are in crisis because of persistent, orchestrated attacks on them and their teachers and principals, and attacks on the very principle of public responsibility for public education. These attacks create a false sense of crisis and serve the interests of those who want to privatize the public schools.” She discusses standardized testing, charter schools, poverty and many education-related issues that recur in political debates. She concludes: “When public education is in danger, democracy is jeopardized.”
“Getting Schooled: The Re-education of an American Teacher”
by Garret Keizer
Vermont writer Keizer returns to the classroom as an English teacher after 14 years away. “It comes back to me now in a sickening wave — what I hated most about teaching, not the loss of free time and the weariness of the work, the absurd pettiness of a thousand minutiae, the hurry-up-and-wait inertia of the school routine, the interruptions tugging and blaring at you every other minute, but the constant second-guessing of oneself. Anything you do is bound to be, on some level and for some kid, wrong.” He observes how things have changed during his absence. “One thing is clear from the outset: the biggest change in education since my departure from the classroom, bigger even than the place of technology in the curriculum, is the move toward uniform instruction.” Through it all, he remains dedicated to his students: “For any complaints I have, the kids themselves remain my best antidote.”
All the books above, and many more on the topic of education, are available at Rutland Free Library. What book has provided you with new insight into education?
Janet Clapp is an adult services librarian at Rutland Free Library.