From Publishers Weekly
Forty years ago, Death at an Early Age
catapulted Kozol into national prominence as a compassionate yet clearheaded observer of the rotten state of American education. His latest book reviews many of the basic issues he has spent his life exploring through teaching and writing. Here, he cleverly weaves his observations—as well as a thinly disguised biographical memoir—into a series of 16 letters written to Francesca, a first-grade teacher at an inner-city public school in Boston. Overall, the book will delight and encourage first-year (or for that matter, 40th-year) teachers who need Kozol's reminders of the ways that their beautiful profession can bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity. But his encouraging words rarely lapse into treacle. In fact, he offers tough observations on American education addressed to a larger audience. His forceful opinions are convincingly argued—most notably, that educational vouchers will deepen divisions between diverse groups in racially decided cities; that middle schools demoralize students and should be abolished entirely; and that the Gates Foundation made a damaging mistake in aggressively funding a small school craze that will reinforce the racial isolation of the students they enroll. (Sept.)
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Acclaimed author Kozol began a correspondence with Francesca, a young first-year teacher at an inner-city school in Boston. His letters offer a revealing, heartfelt look at the state of education and his own joy and agony in reporting on it. The letters provoke recollections of his early days as a teacher and, as a reporter, the humbling experience of visiting classes and maintaining relationships with the people on the frontlines of teaching, while he observes and writes. Kozol offers encouragement, advice, reflection, and admiration for all the teachers like Francesca, who pour their souls into their jobs. The letters explore the challenges of teaching in the inner cities: bureaucracies and standardized tests that take the creativity out of teaching; distrustful, defiant children who take away time and attention from those who want to learn; the heartbreaking irony of teaching diversity in schools that are clearly racially segregated. A beautiful book that offers an intimate look at the challenges and joys of teaching and one that will inspire and inform teachers and all those interested in public education. Bush, Vanessa
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