- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First edition (March 17, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596912901
- ISBN-13: 978-1596912908
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,374,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How Lincoln Learned to Read: Twelve Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them Hardcover – March 17, 2009
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School—Wolff allows that several factors are involved in achieving greatness, but his focus here is on the role of childhood education (roughly toddler to teen) in the success of 12 notable Americans, discussed chronologically from Benjamin Franklin to Elvis Presley. He examines the education, both in school and out, of Abigail Adams, Andrew Jackson, Sojourner Truth, Sarah Winnemucca, Henry Ford, W. E. B. Du Bois, Helen Keller, Rachel Carson, and John F. Kennedy. Employing a lively narrative style and impressive research, Wolff presents the interlocking stories that together form a brief history of what it means to be successful in this country. These individuals range from having no formal education to attending the best schools in the land, from having a reverence for book learning to having a reverence for tinkering, from facing enormous challenges to having specialized interests. But what they all hold in common is that they managed to learn what they needed to know, often against tremendous odds. All were consistently true to themselves and to their deepest interests. And from that starting point they pursued the particular education that best suited their needs. This provocative book is not only an important addition to the history of education in America, but also a valuable contribution to the history and understanding of the country's ideas and culture. It should appeal especially to those teens who wonder where their particular education might lead.—Robert Saunderson, formerly at Berkeley Public Library, CA
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Eclectic author and journalist Wolff looks at the training, formal or otherwise, of 12 unique Americans in an effort to identify aspects of a “good education.” From Abe Lincoln’s obsession with books and newspapers to Elvis’ fascination with movies and their soundtracks, Wolff ties these varied biographies together with common historical threads, discerning how each was able to surmount difficulties and make his or her mark. We learn that Ben Franklin “finds his refuge in books” as a child and that Abigail Adams “entered the adult world through the library.” W. E. B. DuBois was fortunate to be born in Massachusetts, where education was mandatory for 6- to 12-year-olds, black or white. Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a Paiute Indian, opened her own Indian school, striving to keep the traditional ways alive in the face of white-run schools trying to exterminate Indian traditions. Enriched by historical details of the Civil War and world wars, the Great Depression, and the rise of unions, and backed by extensive primary sources, Wolff’s essays provide enlightening glimpses into the often-serendipitous process of education. --Deborah Donovan
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Top Customer Reviews
Combining American history, biography and educational development, provides a great pot full of information which he stirs masterfully to make sense of what we all ask our children to master.
Turns out the molds we attempt to jam our offspring into are little different than the ones that were available to our ancestors. The good news is that those that don't fit, adapt as required and contribute to society in spite of rather than because of their education. Mark Twain said he never let school get in the way of his education. Daniel Wolff explains why this has been a valid observation for the past two hundred years. He is well worth reading no mater how you learned to read.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, in execution, it's not as great as I'd expected, leaving me feeling somewhat disappointed with this slow-moving book. The "educational biographies" are uneven and, at times, tended to ramble. The chapters on Belle, a black woman slave who was later known as Sojourner Truth, and on Thocmetony, an Indian woman who was the daughter of Winnemucca, were my favorites, I'd say.
It's not a bad book if you've got the patience to read through some slow parts or maybe skip them altogether. Overall, I feel somewhat neutral about this book. Interesting premise and some fascinating parts but I'm not sure it's worth the effort.