- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Press (October 7, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 140396839X
- ISBN-13: 978-1403968395
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education
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From Publishers Weekly
As an education reporter for the New York Daily News and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Williams has the dirt on some of the nation's largest public school systems, and in this book, part scathing expose and part call-to-action, Williams paints a bleak picture before shifting into a discussion about remedying the many problems he details, from systems that treat parents and students as antagonists to unprepared and inexperienced teachers and administrators. In the first part of the book, Williams overwhelms with a string of horrifying and scandalous tales of school mismanagement, piling them on to the point where they begin to lose their impact. The book takes a turn when Williams discusses the ways parents, teachers, administrators, politicians and the business sector can work together to remedy our failing schools. From New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to control schools from the top down, to Mothers on the Move's struggle against corruption in their South Bronx school district, Williams does a fantastic job chronicling events and ideas as well as capturing the people on both sides of the issues. In particular, his extended analysis of the battle over school vouchers in Milwaukee is a riveting tale of corruption toppled by community activism. Although the primary audience will be parents of school-age children, anyone interested in education would benefit from reading it, whether or not they agree with Williams' judgments.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Williams, education reporter with the New York Daily News, examines how school policies shortchange children in favor of adult interests in jobs, wages, and contracts. Drawing on a decade of reporting on public schools in New York and Milwaukee, Williams explains how unions, politicians, vendors, and consultants waste and mismanage funds meant to improve education. He also outlines the role of teachers' unions and political parties in operating school systems and how mindless bureaucracy alienates parents and distracts teachers from their primary roles. He details how unions have prevented parent volunteers from pulling weeds, how a valedictorian who criticized the school in her graduation speech was denied her diploma until she apologized, how a computer company was forced to withdraw hardware donations after bureaucratic rules prevented effective use of the computers. Williams does salute exceptional educators and parents who make heroic efforts on behalf of children but notes that they are exceptions to the rule. He concludes with reform efforts that have worked, including a Milwaukee program that features limited use of school vouchers and mini school districts. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
Sad to say, but this story is not the reality. Like anyone else, even teachers and administrators are often self-=interested. Teachers join unions (whose primary allegiance is to make teacher's rewards greater), boards of ed care about public relations every bit as much as helping students, and politicians just want to say anything that will simulteneously help their electoral campaigns while not offending any special interest groups.
Joe Williams's book is an investigative expose of this world of furtive self-interests that we call the public school system. He devotes chapters to every single group who dares to pay lip service to helping students while really playing self-interested politics as usual. The main targets are the predictable ones: the teachers unions and the politicians. The former is taken to task for putting effective strangle-holds on any attempts to try and introduce any kind of accountability into the teaching profession. The latter is called to account for their staggering ineptitude to do anything but spit tired rhetoric. Williams gives example after example of both groups failure to produce anything beneficial to the students.
A reviewer below takes the reporter to task for not being objective, fair, and balanced in his reporting. This is true... but it is true of all investigative journalism of this kind. In addition to his fact-presenting, Williams does opine quite a bit. But he never name-calls and, contrary to the below reviewer's assertion, does not stump for any political party. (He takes republicans to task only a slight bit less than democrats.)
Really, Cheating Our Kids can and should be seen as a journalist's confirmation of (what is called) public choice theory. Public choice theory boils down to the simple idea that government is every bit as self-interested as business people and should always be seen as such. Bureaucracies are generally self-serving and -perpetuating, politics is plagued by special interests (who look out for themselves rather than the good of all), and politicians care first and foremost about elections, rather than doing good. Anyone who likes this book and wants to explore the self-serving nature of bureacracies (of which the public schools are apotheoses), should read economist Ludwig von Mises'sBUREAUCRACY (Lib Works Ludwig Von Mises PB) or sociologist James Wilson's Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It (Basic Books Classics).
The reader should also be forewarned that the author speaks very highly of a voucher system and much of the book argues in favor of such an approach. I find it desirable, but others may be offput.
Los Angeles Unified School District is in the midst of a $19 billion school construction project - the largest in U.S. History. Precious little has been written about this monumental and historical occurence. I fear that the Fourth Estate is not up to the task of protecting the public. What editor would allow a reporter to spend months researching the byzantine passages of public construction bids, self-dealing, and the intracacies of change orders? It would win a Pulitzer if done right, but the economics of the newspaper business make it a remote possibility. Many reporters have to produce three to four stories a week! How can they dive into the five hundred layers of confusion in two days and write a credible story? Even if they spent three months, they would barely tap the surface.
That's why Joe Williams book is so important. It is an amazing start.
I just bought 12 copies of this book for my parent leaders.
I am a parent. Hopefully, you will be able to avoid the same painful experiences my children and I had when a corporation took over our neighborhood school.