William J. Bennett, that doyen of common sense who brought us The Book of Virtues
, has returned to the topic of child rearing, delivering a massive canon on the education of young children. He joins fellow veterans of the U.S. Department of Education Chester E. Finn Jr. and John T.E. Cribb Jr. in offering a traditional, back-to-basics resource for parents. The Educated Child
is a tome to page through and return to as the years go by, with chapters divided by subjects and grade levels. One of the most helpful aspects of the guide is its outline of what to expect--or demand, in some cases--in the K-8 essentials. The writers list book titles, historic dates, science topics, and other issues that should be covered, borrowing heavily from E.D. Hirsch's Core Knowledge Series, the fact-specific book series that begins with What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know
But Bennett et al.'s take on education goes further, with the authors weighing in on such controversial topics as sex education, TV, the Internet, self-esteem, and school uniforms with statements that largely reflect their conservative reputations. They also stick to the insistence that Western culture be emphasized in American classrooms. In some cases, however, the three don't always agree--acknowledging diverging views on year-round education, for instance. Some of what they cover is basic, instinctive stuff: we don't need another guide telling us to talk to our children about their school day. But there's valuable advice, too, such as how to save your child from a bad teacher and what questions to ask in a parent-teacher conference. For parents puzzled or overwhelmed by what the authors refer to as "the blob" of the education bureaucracy, The Educated Child can be a helpful insiders' view from those who once governed the biggest blob of all. --Jodi Mailander Farrell
From Publishers Weekly
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Bennett (The Book of Virtues) and his colleagues (Finn, author of We Must Take Charge; Cribb, formerly of the U.S. Department of Education) offer American parents an impassioned and straight-shooting reference for educating their children. In prose free of academic rhetoric, the authors state: "[I]f your school is inflicting a mediocre education on your child, the sooner you know about it the better." They then present a "yardstick" by which to judge the academic quality of any school (public or private). A model core curriculum organized by grade levelAprimary (K-3), intermediate (4-6), and junior high (7 and 8)Apresents the material clearly and logically, and helps readers assess whether a child is getting a thorough dose of English, history and geography, the arts, math and science. While blunt in their criticism of decaying academic standards (evident in grade inflation, lowered expectations for students and terrible international rankings), the authors are unequivocal in their support of dedicated educators and all those willing to hold children to the highest possible standard. Parents may question some of the model curriculum's expectations (e.g., that second graders dramatize the death of Socrates), but the authors are quick to reassure readers that the book's purpose is not to serve as a list of must-haves but rather as "inspiration and general guidance" in gaining a sense of "the knowledge and skills that should lie at the heart of a solid elementary education." Bennett is a controversial figure because of his passionate cultural conservatism. But this book, despite a brief word in favor of school vouchers, is about padagogy, not politics. It's an ambitious and commonsensical guide that will inspire both parents and educators. 100,000 first printing; 25-city radio satellite tour. (Nov.)
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