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Doing School Hardcover – October 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
By and large, the recent focus on American education has been on the shortcomings of our worst schools. Pope, a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, zeroes in on a well-regarded California public high school and explores "the educational experience" from the students' points of view. Her year-long shadowing of five intelligent, motivated students from diverse backgrounds raises the troubling proposition that even our best schools may be misserving our best students, and reveals the ambiguous nature of our successes. Devoting a detailed chapter to the school lives of each student, Pope asks two important questions: "What exactly is being learned in high schools like Faircrest? And at what costs?" The answers are dismaying. Students learn that getting A's is of supreme importance, and that it is sometimes more advantageous to be "system savvy" than it is to actually learn the material. Still, Pope's five subjects work hard at grueling routines, sacrificing sleep and social lives to the desire to succeed. The costs of their achievements, she suggests, are "severe anxiety or breakdowns," "persistent health or sleep problems" and ethical compromise in the conflict between these students' ideals and values and the grade-grubbing, self-serving alliances with adult advocates and (usually subtle) cheating they deem necessary to success. A scholarly study presented with great clarity and enlivened by vignettes of student life, this work provides a fresh perspective on the state of American education, and yet another reason to press for systematic reform.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this important and timely study, Pope, a veteran teacher, curriculum expert, and lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, offers a revealing look at the quandaries of today's high school students. The book is based on Pope's yearlong research, which consisted of shadowing and interviewing five successful students of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds at a highly regarded California public high school. Pope adroitly takes the students' point of view and finds that they are frustrated by being caught in a "grade trap"; often stressed out, exhausted, and anxious, they are resentful that their future success is dependent on their GPA and test scores. These and similar findings raise critical questions for concerned parents, educators, and policy makers involved in all levels of education, making this an essential purchase for high school, college, and university libraries and one strongly recommended for public libraries where interest in education is strong. Samuel T. Huang, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
It no longer surprises me when the students around me resort to the methods outlined in Ms. Pope's book. True, not all of these methods are "technically" prohibited and (fortunately) not all students approach their studies in this way, but enough of them do that it is time to reevaluate just what is most important when approaching our children's education. Ms. Pope's book attempts to redirect this focus so that American students do not continue to fall further behind the rest of the world.
I appreciate the honesty of the author and the students in writing this. As adults, it is important that we understand teen struggles and support them. These teens are our future leaders.
Ms. Pope falls short when she tries to generalize her conclusions about the five students she followed over the course of a school year to an indictment of the state of education in that particular high school (and ultimately, the state of education in America as a whole). These students suffered from multiple problems such as probable sleep deprivation, to possible mental illness and personality disorder, to family dysfunction. Just to examine whether the high school itself was a prime culprit in fostering an unhealthy emphasis on grades, Ms. Pope would have needed a much larger study including psychiatric, social work, and medical evaluation of the students, but also the families, teachers, administration, and even of the characteristics of the surrounding community.
Even then, generalizing her conclusions to other school districts would have been impossible, since the problems facing any given school system are unique. For example, poverty, racism, and drugs didn't seem to be prominent problems for the students in her study, but I am sure teachers and administrators in other districts might say that such problems are of paramount importance to them.
As a result, as a scientific investigation of the state of education in the high school Ms Pope studied (and in America as a whole), Ms. Pope's book is useless.
Forget the inflammatory title. I highly recommend this book as it was written - a call for parents to reflect on the lives of their children.
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