- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Subsequent edition (August 22, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684825058
- ISBN-13: 978-0684825052
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,363,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Greater Expectations: Overcoming the Culture of Indulgence in Our Homes and Schools Subsequent Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Damon argues that our current system of education fails to provide the discipline and challenges necessary for children to fully develop.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Jonathan Yardley The Washington Post Book World A voice of common sense on the subject of child-rearing and education...forthright, clearheaded and courageous.
Arla Lindgren Library Journal In this exceedingly readable study, Damon challenges prevailing views on education and parenting...[He] sustains his passionate eloquence even when dealing with the most unpopular and potentially volatile subjects. Highly recommended.
Janice Harayda Cleveland Plain Dealer Greater Expectations is thoughtful and well-reasoned....That it has come from an Eastern intellectual who blows the whistle on many of his peers makes it seem all the more remarkable.
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There, however, the book started losing this reader. In Part III, the author presents a moderately unrealistic view of the innate morality of children, slipping obvious errors in with his obvious facts, such as: "Children do not routinely rob, kill, or lie: such behaviors are exceptional even among troubled populations." (pp. 156) To be blunt, the child who has not experimented with lying before the age of 10 has never existed; it's a behavior they must be taught to avoid.
In presenting his suggestions for improving parenting skills, he debunks several of the fashionable theories, again urging a more balanced approach. Unfortunately, as he explores his field (child development), he uses more specialized language, often not defining his terms, making for a less-enlightening read for people not familiar with the language of the field.
As he tackles schooling, his view of reality differs greatly from mine. While he reluctantly admits that public education needs to be "improved and reformed", he bewails the existence of private schools, which he terms "schools-for-profit". He acknowledges that nonprofit parochial schools have an honorable tradition, but expresses dismay over the idea that a school could be profitable. (Perhaps he's never encountered a high-end private school?)
He then extols the virtues of the public school in American history, insisting that this is the institution that offers the greatest hope for today's youth, fairly persuasively - if you're not a parent who has come to view today's public schools as a large part of the problem. These excerpts are fairly typical:
"Because schools, when they are working well, have instructional capacities that go far beyond those of any other institution, we must extend, rather than weaken, the universal reach of schooling. Whatever their present-day shortfalls, public schools are still the last, best hope for millions of young people."
"The value of formal schooling for children is so great that simple fairness demands that we provide exemplary versions of it for every child. If we fail in this, our beliefs in sustaining democracy will ring hollow, and our prospects for future social stability will become dismal."
At about this point, his arguments largely lose contact with any reality I've known. He claims that public school methods have remained unchanged over the last century, totally ignoring the remarkable amount of change in public schooling in the 20th century. He waxes enthusiastic over "dynamic new approaches to the craft of teaching", totally ignoring the fact that this phrase has been used with dismaying regularity and diminishing results over the past 60+ years.
At the end, he proposes new goals for the teachers. They should be taught to custom-craft a lesson plan for each student, teach all skills in a project-oriented fashion, and personally guide each student to success.
That this would require teachers to act as individual tutors to an entire classroom, at once, is never addressed - he does not seem to feel that this expectation is unrealistic.
This may be so in some world - maybe I'll see it someday.
All in all, 2 stars - there's some good stuff here, but be ready to deal with a remarkable load of chaff while you're getting the wheat.
Damon documents the singular effects of under-privilege and over-privilege on youngsters, such that youngsters now lack wholesome ambition and are fundamentally demoralized. He tries very hard to not sound like a Cassandra, but the statistics and examples are those that we read in our ordinary daily papers, so it seems reasonable to agree with him that youngsters in this country are in significant trouble.
Dr. Damon then offers a middle-of-the-road perspective on correcting these problems. He clearly dislikes the fact that politicians take "sound bite" positions on this cultural war and use mistakes and myths to polarize the public.
He speaks clearly about "respectful engagement" with youngsters, expecting something back from them, not treating children as little ceramic vessels that will break at the first challenge in life, the benefits of discipline in terms of self-social-and-moral growth, and how schools, teachers, parents, community workers, and the youngsters themselves can recover the true spirit of youth--"a transcendant sense of purpose linked to community and spirituality [morality]."
I always like Damon's books. He is reasonable and clear. He has a great passion for youngsters. He believes that it is not too much to expect that all youngsters should be able to be honest, decent, respectful, fair, and responsible.
I hope you enjoy this book.
My favorite example of the "self esteem" model was the author writing about his kindergarten age daughter coming home from school sporting a sticker that said "I Am Great." The little girl was puzzled because she didn't know what she'd done to make her "great."
Reading some reviews here makes me want to re-read the book because I had forgotten some of the chapters. The one that really stood out was talking about behaviors. The author points out that hoodlums and people that commit crimes already have a very high opinion of themselves. There is nothing wrong with their self esteem. So being constantly praised for merely "being you" doesn't guarantee that you will turn out to be a model citizen and contributor to society.