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Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 1, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 1, 2009
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Editorial Reviews


"[Chavis] has many of the habits of some of the best educators I know - a wicked sense of humor, a weakness for shocking the conventionally wise, and a deep love of children, particularly those who have had difficult lives."
-Jay Mathews, The Washington Post

"Ben Chavis inspires us....His impact will ripple far beyond those who were fortunate enough to be among his students."
-Michelle D. Bernard, President and CEO, Independent Women's Forum and MSNBC Political Analyst

"Chavis's book succeeds in what it sets out to do: tell the story of how a 'country Indian' from the wrong side of the river grew into a fiercely determined educational leader, and how he turned a failing school into a model of excellence for the nation....Ben Chavis himself is one of a kind - passionate, intense, and brutally honest. Like a character in a high-concept Hollywood film, he unabashedly tells whomever he's speaking with exactly what's on his mind....Chavis is a cross between Socrates and Dirty Harry."
-Andrew J. Coulson, City Journal

"Ben Chavis, the most politically incorrect person on the planet, is also, not coincidentally, one of the people most correct about inner-city education. Read this book by a man who gets results as a practitioner of the 'no excuses' approach to schooling."
--George F. Will, The Washington Post columnist

"...there is much to be learned from this account. It is possible to restore public education to its mission of educating the nation's citizens. There is a message of hope and possibility in Crazy Like a Fox that we should embrace."
--Mitchell Kapor, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Chavis [is] undeniably one of the country's finest educators...Thrust this book into the hands of all the parents you know and implore them to read it...Chavis is passionate, articulate, and entertaining. He's also right."
--Mark Hemingway, National Review

"American Indian [is] a rarity in American education, defying the axiom that poor black and Latino children will lag behind others in school."
--Mitchell Landsberg, Los Angeles Times

"To get the kind of results Chavis does in Oakland is a work of stripped-down genius. Ben's book reads like Ben talks: forthright, funny, irreverent, and wise. For anyone who cares about American education, for anyone who cares about America, Crazy Like a Fox is an essential read."
--Jack Cashill, authorWhat's the Matter with California?

"I have taken the tour [of American Indian Public Charter School], and I have to tell you from what I've seen I was really impressed...It is an education miracle that has happened here."
--Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, during a visit to AIPCS on March 23, 2006 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Dr. Ben Chavis was born into a Lumbee Indian family of sharecroppers and as a youngster attended Indian segregated public schools in Robeson County, North Carolina. An athletic scholarship provided him the opportunity to graduate from Pima College and University of Arizona. He has worked in farming, construction, education, and business. He is now Chief Executive for training and implementing the successful American Indian Public Charter School model in schools. His educational model has been replicated in other schools serving low-income students with the same high academic results. During his leadership at AIPCS, it went from the lowest scoring school in Oakland, California, to one of the top in the United States.
Carey Blakely grew up in Massachusetts and California and majored in English at UC Berkeley. After teaching at American Indian Public Charter School for three years, she helped launch American Indian Public High School (AIPHS) and was appointed the school’s leader. During the time she headed AIPHS, it ranked as the fifth-highest-scoring high school in California. She now lives and writes in the San Diego area.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Hardcover; First Edition edition (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451228189
  • ASIN: B003H4RARM
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,861,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Crazy Like a Fox" is a mesmerizing book. I expected a tedious account of an attempt to bring a school back from the edge, but after a page or two, I discovered I couldn't put it down. Carey Blakely's writing makes an interesting story even more captivating. What Ben Chavez accomplished, how he did it and how Blakely tells the story makes for one of the best books I've read this year. I won't ruin the fun by saying more about the story. I hope everyone in education, every parent and all the people who love to read will get this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

Crazy Like A Fox is one of the three best books on education I've ever read. (My other two all-time favorite books are both by Jay Mathews: Escalante, the best book about an individual teacher, and Work Hard, Be Nice, the best book about entrepreneurship in education, building one school into a national network.)

Crazy Like A Fox rounds out the list. It is by far the best book I've ever read in explaining, in no uncertain terms, exactly what is the No Excuses educational philosophy, which is shared by nearly every school that successfully educates low-income, minority children. As such, this book should be required reading for every teacher and principal who is educating such kids.

The book is written by Dr. Ben Chavis, who turned around the worst school in Oakland, the American Indian Public Charter School, and has expanded it to five charter schools in the city, all of which are among the top 1% of public schools in California and three of which are in the top 10 schools statewide according to the state's Academic Performance Index scores. These results certainly aren't due to favorable demographics -- in fact, at the original AIPCS school, 97% of the students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, 98% are minorities and 74% speak English as a second language.

Chavis has an amazing story, starting with his childhood of extreme poverty in rural North Carolina with a violent and largely absent father. He says that of all of the inner-city Oakland students who've ever attended one of his schools, not one of them had a childhood as bad as his -- and he's no doubt right.
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Format: Hardcover
I heartily recommend that you take time to get to know Dr. Ben Chavis, former principal of the inner-city, Oakland, CA, American Indian Charter Public School (AIPCS), by reading his book, Crazy like a Fox. This book is especially for all those who are concerned and saddened about the current abysmal performance of so many U.S. K-12 schools. This book will either confirm your belief that we can do better educating our children, or it will--if you keep an open mind--challenge your progressive beliefs about the ingredients required for a successful school. It will either confirm your belief that performance is about more than money, food, computers, empathy, self esteem, and politically correct nostrums; or it will hopefully shatter those progressive beliefs which have so clearly failed our failing children.

Ben Chavis has now taken his education model public, after turning around AIPCS, turning it around with family, good books, good teachers, a back-to-basics focus, structure, discipline, high expectations, a taste of free market capitalism, accountability and his unique disdain for educational orthodoxy: "Multicultural specialists, ultraliberal zealots, and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply [for teaching jobs]." But success was not foreordained for his school. In fact, it was just one vote away--within days of Dr. Chavis taking over as principal--from being ordered closed by the school board. I invite you to follow his rescue and recovery, as he replaces a broken faculty, and fixes a dysfunctional curriculum, and imposes structure and discipline on a school without either. On his journey, Dr. Chavis will take away student computers and refuse to offer the federal school lunch program.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my twentieth year of teaching. I've taught in the inner city, way out in the country in a school surrounded by cornfields and currently teach in a school that is a crazy mix that ranges from urban ghetto to suburban McMansion neighborhoods.

There is nothing in this book that I can disagree with so far as the methods that Chavis espouses. He introduces an extreme quantity of discipline, accountability and rigor to an inner city environment that is seriously lacking in those three traits. He preaches respect for private property, pride in your school and rewards students with cash and prizes for doing well.

He blows up the concept of the mega-high school (I teach in one and it does NOT work well) and keeps his school small so that it has a family feel - everyone knows everyone.

But, this is not a traditional public school. It is a charter school - students choose to go there and because of that Chavis is free to institute his ultra-disciplined system. He is also free to jettison students who will not quickly adapt to his program, two things that regular public schools cannot do, nor will they likely every be able to do that due to the compulsory nature of public schools - because everyone has to go, courts have often ruled that the rules cannot be too extreme (this wipes out many dress code rules, etc.). The regular public schools cannot exclude students, even those that everyone knows will disrupt everything until they have had their "due process", a restriction Chavis does not have to deal with.

As a veteran teacher with a family I know that I could not teach in a Chavis-run school. He wants them young and without families so that they can devote every waking moment to his school.
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