- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (September 4, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684827395
- ISBN-13: 978-0684827391
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,803,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Teaching the New Basic Skills: Principles for Educating Children to Thrive in a Changing Economy Paperback – September 4, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
According to Murnane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Levy, professor of urban economics at MIT, schools are failing because they are not teaching children the "new basic skills" that must be mastered to earn a middle-class income. Those skills are defined by the authors as "hard" skills such as math and reading, "soft" skills including the ability to work in groups and make presentations and, finally, the ability to use personal computers. The authors argue that the best way to teach these skills is for schools to retrain their teachers by adopting principles used by businesses to motivate their managers. Although the authors' lengthy explanations of those principles have some interesting points, Murnane and Levy are occasionally unclear about how to apply them. They also make the controversial assumption that schools are for training students to earn a living, and they do not address the complexities of a shrinking job market.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
John S. Reed Chairman, Citicorp This is an important book. It is an optimistic book and can make a difference. It should be read by anyone interested in what is going on in our country today...by those of us who are parents, teachers, administrators, or others who care about our schools...and importantly by business people who will better understand how to link the needs of the workplace with the changes that need to take place in our schools.
Roy Romer Governor, State of Colorado Teaching the New Basic Skills provides compelling arguments -- using lessons from the private sector -- about what will need to change in the classroom and in schools if more students are to reach higher standards...This book will be a useful tool for its readers.
William F. Weld Massachusetts This book will serve as an important guide in the creation of a school-to-work continuum that prepares all students for success. The New Basic Skills here defined are the fundamental tools necessary to compete in our global economy.
Dr. Rudolph F. Crew Chancellor, New York Public Schools Teaching the New Basic Skills provides important ideas for helping all schools, including those in New York City, better prepare students to prosper in a changing economy. Educators will resonate with the descriptions of problems in today's schools and be heartened by the case studies showing that schools can improve markedly. The authors' Five Principles provide a powerful framework around which to organize strategies for improving our schools.
Ed Richardson State Superintendent of Education, Alabama As an educator in the midst of educational reform, I especially enjoyed your fifth principle of perseverance and the lack of a "magic bullet"...Thorough and common sense books like yours will assist us in our efforts.
Linda Darling-Hammond 1995-1996 President of American Educational Research Association The book illustrates that improvements in our schools will not come easily, but that real progress is possible when teachers, students, and parents persevere in making schools places where all children learn.
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Top Customer Reviews
This book was written over twenty years ago and thus is quite dated. If anything, the problem has worsened over time. As stated in the foreword by Thomas W. Payzant (Superintendent of Boston Public Schools), "As recently as the 1950s, twenty percent of the jobs in America were professional, twenty percent skilled and sixty percent unskilled. In the 1990s, the percentage of professional jobs is about the same, but skilled jobs have soared to sixty-plus percent while unskilled jobs have fallen below twenty percent." Thus, the skill set young people need today to achieve a middle class lifestyle is higher than it once was. Drs. Murnane and Levy state that employers want reliability, positive attitude and hard work as well as the "New Basic Skills:" knowledge of basic mathematics, high reading levels, problem solving skills, the ability to work in groups made of diverse members, the ability to make oral and written presentations, and knowledge of personal computers (p. 9).
Drs. Murnane and Levy feel that if U.S. K-12 schools would re-structure and have school administrators, teachers, parents and students follow five steps, more students would graduate twelfth grade with the basic skills of basic math and reading, problem solving skills, being able to work in groups, and make coherent presentations:
1. All who are concerned would agree that there is a problem.
2. Schools and school systems would provide the right incentives and opportunities for teachers to solve the problem.
3. Teachers would be trained in how to teach the "New Basic Skills."
4. Progress (or lack thereof) would be measured regularly.
5. Schools would persevere even in the face of problems and learn from mistakes because there is no magic bullet (p. 14).
There is one problem with this solution: employers are increasingly looking at a college degree for entry level jobs. Part of this is because of the lawsuit "Griggs v. Duke Power Co.," in which it was established that an employer cannot require hiring criteria not directly related to the job itself. Since it is legal shaky ground for an employer to use tests of skills to hire employees (since the employer will possibly have to justify how the skills tested are applicable to the job), many employers will no longer hire people without a college degree, since college graduates are more likely to have the "New Basic Skills" (p. 236). However, as the authors point out, "college is a very expensive employment agency" (p. 8).
The authors themselves also point out that "As late as 1979, a 30-year-old man with a U.S. high school diploma earned a yearly average of $27,700, in 1993 dollars. That income, combined with a wife's earnings from a part-time job, secured the family a solid place in the middle class. Then, almost without warning, the economy changed. By 1983 U.S. manufacturing, threatened by imports, was rapidly downsizing, and a 30-year-old man with a high school diploma earned an average of $23,000 a year, in 1993 dollars. By 1993, with computers transforming both U.S. manufacturing and U.S. services, a 30-year-old man with a high school diploma earned an average of $20,000." The authors further note that in 1993 half of all 30-year-old men have not had any education beyond high school (p. 3).
As the other reviewers pointed out, the authors use the case studies of Honda of America and Northwestern Mutual Life extensively to point out how employers look for the "New Basic Skills." I am not convinced that business is necessarily the model for public school education, who must educate all who enter their doors, as opposed to industry, who can choose whom to hire. However, knowing what skills employers look for in a potential employee is valuable. However, does this information still apply today, twenty years later?