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Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City Hardcover – September 1, 2009
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"[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
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.
Top customer reviews
Although I have very different politics from Ben Chavis (for example, I find his effusive praise of George Bush and Milton Friedman misguided), I must admit that he seems to have found the key to dealing with a serious American education problem. His strict enforcement of rules and discipline is well tempered by his sincere ambition, protection, and love for each of his students. And unlike Obama, who has brought none of his promised change to our country's war policies and lobbyist influence, Chavis does for education what he says he will do. And he reveals his methods in detail to anyone willing to pay attention. If you believe that a solid grounding in English, math, history, and science for all America's future citizens will help pull this country back from the brink of chaos, then read this book to see how it can be done.
The book is an easy read, a ramble full of stories about the school, its students and staff, Chavis' confrontational encounters with friends and foes, and his hardscrabble childhood in rural North Carolina. It is the personal story of a man who started at the very bottom of the American economy, recognized truths that many did not, and then let no obstacles, icons, or institutions stand in the way of putting those truths into action. For those who care about American education and wonder how we can begin to correct its decline, "Crazy Like a Fox" will give them an inspirational starting point.
Be forewarned, this book will not please everyone. Dr. Chavis is controversial, to say the least. He is openly scornful of a lot of popular views of how to reform education and at one point accuses certain facets of liberal ideology as having done more harm to minorities than the KKK. He is frequently not P.C. in this book or in his verbal interactions with his students in a way that will make some uncomfortable: for instance, he believes that embarrassing kids who are being rebellious is a legitimate learning tool. That said, love or hate Dr. Chavis' more contrarian views, there are lots of valuable lessons in here that people of every political stripe should be examining.
A personal note in closing: in the book Dr. Chavis invites readers to visit his charter school, and I took him up on the offer. The first thing I noticed at the American Indian Public Charter School was how clean and quiet the campus was -- very different from some other Oakland schools. Dr. Chavis, who retired from being the principal a few years ago, showed me a few classrooms -- the kids were respectful, engaged in the subject-matter, and (when I glanced at their coursework) doing advanced stuff for their grade-level. I was impressed. Another thing I noticed was that, despite critics accusing Dr. Chavis of being too harsh on his students, every time he interacted with a student (patting them on the back, asking about family) they had the biggest grins on their faces; they clearly love him, probably because it is so clear how deeply he cares about them and their future.
Careful. How you answer will determine what you think of Dr. Chavis' methods.
If you agree that the purpose of public education is to PREPARE students live productive, constructive lives, then you'll agree that Dr. Chavis' method, "AIM to Educate" (American Indian Model) gets results where only a few years before, the "school" had been totally out of control.
The school takes a non-nonsense approach to teaching the basics, and tends heavily towards strict structure and discipline. And its students are all the better for it.
Full disclosure: I discovered the[...] (American Indian Public Charter School) website a couple of months ago. The remarkable results (especially for an inner-city school) inspired me to send it a booklet I wrote, "Booker T. Washington - American Hero" (free for the asking at www (dot) [...]) as BTW began his teaching career at Hampton Institute (VA) by getting feuding Indian tribes to cooperate.
To my surprise, Dr. Chavis phoned me and I decided to visit the school to see for myself. I had unlimited access for four days (mandatory math summer school was in session).
From my own eyes and ears, I say he has the answer. GET THE BOOK!
But do not simply read it. Make your own middle and high school principles read it and better yet, start to implement AIM to Educate. Or else, for inner city kids, their future will be bleak indeed.