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Horace's Hope: What Works for the American High School Hardcover – September 10, 1996
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The third book in the Horace trilogy, Horace's Hope explores Theodore R. Sizer's own hopes for the future of high schools. Sizer, the chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools, first gained widespread attention in 1984 with Horace's Compromise, a study of the American high school, followed by Horace's School, a fictional account of school reform. In the final installment, Horace presents a progressive approach to education that allows students time and space to explore their subjects. This culmination of a 12-year attempt to establish more progressive schools advances the case for Sizer's vision of a reformed school system.
From Publishers Weekly
Sizer (Horace's Compromise and Horace's School), director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, in this third volume of his trilogy takes an informed look at the state of secondary education and offers his dreams for the future. "Horace," who represents a composite of the dedicated but frustrated teachers Sizer encountered in his visits to high schools across the country, still has a commitment to education, although he is being forced to make compromises at the expense of the students he teaches. To change high schools into viable learning institutions for all, the author advocates an end to administrative bureaucracy and real empowerment for teachers, a choice of specialized schools for families from all income levels, state rather than local school financing and the adaptation of emerging technology to reinforce learning at home, in the neighborhood or in a cultural or workplace environment. This is a heartfelt plea for high-school reform by an educator who cares deeply about young people.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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My personal favorites on education are (in order): To Know as WE are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey by Parker Palmer & Beyond Discipline: From Conformity to Community by Alphie Kohn
Sizer stops short of saying there will be anything like a revolution- he knows schools change too slowly to do that-but he does make a strong case for the embarrassment of America's underperforming and the underprivileged. I understand exactly what he's talking about when he talks about how poorly even the good students can discuss what they've learned, or identify what are the main ideas of what they've read. AS a teacher, I know their ability to make connections in history or have a sense of geography is abominable. It would almost be excusable except for the fact that teachers have been going through their gyrations of lessons since the kindergarten year. For the most part- the teachers blame the students. I like the fact that Sizer does not.
The power of America's media is well known, but I hadn't thought of it as the great American cultural unifier, supplanting the American school. This is an interesting notion. If this is true, it should free the schools of their self-imposed responsibility to teach American values, and therefore the schools can take a firmer position on scholarship, for example. The predominance of the media as culture gives us all the more reason to ask students (and ourselves)- `How do we make sense out of all of this?' The opposite path would be to bury our heads in a textbook reading- answering the questions at the end of the chapter. As Sizer (speaking of technology and the media) puts it, "The imagination has new equipment in its arsenal". However some (the poor) have no equipment.
I don't know why it takes a man like Sizer to remind us of our responsibilities to citizens in the name of democracy.Politicians and administrators should be leading the way in this regard, instead of obstructing positive change. Politicians preach equality every day- but Sizer seems to accomplish more toward the goals of freedom and equality despite having far less influence to start with. It's not just the schools that are broken. "What about standards for a system that accelerates the inequity in which they (children) live?" (p28) or standards for educators and politicians? (p46).
I concur with Sizer's view that there are two movements in America, top down and bottom up. This unspoken conflict is the reason for little or no change in our school system. Teachers want bottom up change, but instead, they are reluctantly implementing top down programs. The standards movement will be sabotaged everywhere- because there are no reasonable conditions to achieve them (Sizer's words).
But what I like best about Sizer is that he proposes hope and sensibility. New schools will emerge from alliances of students, teachers, parents, or the government will create more charter schools, or teachers will create non-profits or do what has been done in New York City- Deborah Meier with her school (CPESS) as well as the Center for Collaborative Education. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what American education would be like if people like Meier or Sizer were on the Bush cabinet as Secretary of Education?
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Theodore Sizer, the Chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools has written his third book about the experiences and observations of Horace Smith, his...Read more