- Hardcover: 177 pages
- Publisher: The New Press (September 1, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595584676
- ISBN-13: 978-1595584670
- Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.8 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,792 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us
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A powerful and timely exploration of this country's public education goals, and how they are put into practice, by the award-winning author and educator
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the book is specific to the pedagogical and political battles in the U.S., the lessons go far beyond culturally specific circumstances. This rather short book is concerned with the process of learning, the activity of good teaching, and provocatively scrutinizes the social goals and pedagogical aims of education.
Rose repeatedly emphasizes historically American children have been sent to school for a variety of reasons (pp. 4-5, 23-4, 34-7, 95, 110-5, 159). There is a long tradition in American public education to promote (Jeffersonian) good citizenship and facilitate the realization of civic duty (pp. 166-7). American public schools have historically supported a moral education (p. 4, p. 165) and a learning process to assist and support personal development (p. 115). Rose argues today we need to think in "comprehensive ways about what we want from our schools and how we judge" and evaluate schools' pedagogical accomplishments and what they contribute to society (p. 148). The "narrow focus on test scores" and economic competitiveness distracts from the proper comprehensive assessment of national public educational aims and needs.
What we want from schools and how we judge them is "profoundly affected by [...] our beliefs about intelligence, and by the way we conceive of public responsibility" (p. 7). Rose maintains our educational policy makers "operate with a fairly restricted notion" of intelligence; "one identified with the verbal and quantitative measures of the schoolhouse and the IQ test" (p. 73). This is a mistake, especially in a democratic society.
Major philosophical, educational, and cognitive thinkers have long (and recently) argued intelligence is a remarkably dynamic potential (pp. 86, 73). The potential of intelligence is often revealed when we are young, but just as often not fully revealed until adulthood. Quantitative measures and IQ tests are overly static and fail to accurately measure the dynamic potential of intelligence. "Instead of these static measures of attainment, our focus should shift to the dynamics of development" (p. 104).
In a democratic society there is an implicit assumption that intelligence is a dynamic potential. After all the possibility of a democracy necessarily must presume "the capacity of the common person to learn, to think independently, to decide thoughtfully" (p. 85), otherwise a democracy is not obtainable. It is in this context of cognition and intelligence Rose wants to defend the pedagogy of remediation as a highly important mission of higher education (chapters 9, 10 and 11). Nearly every human being has the potential to "catch up with the right intervention" (p. 134), and "[r]emedial programs are necessary if we want to educate a wide sweep of our citizenry" (p. 124) for civic responsibility and sustaining a healthy democracy.
Especially illuminating is Rose's chapter on the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans (re)entering American educational institutions. Many of them are grossly underprepared and/or require psychological, social, and financial programs to adequately address and support their educational needs (p. 141). Unfortunately, educational programs for veteran populations "tend toward single-shot solutions: a few basic skills course, or tutoring, or counseling" (p. 143). Thankfully Congress has recently made a serious commitment to the educational supports and needs of these veterans (p. 140). Programs employing multiple levels of support and integrating "a number of interventions," with intensive psychological, social and financial supports, have been the most successful for American veterans (p. 143).
By logical extension, we can imagine analogous intensive supports and multiple interventions which may be quite effective for non-veteran populations. When students lack the proper educational and social supports to help them succeed academically they too often become personally hopeless, academically dismissive, and politically cynical (p. 146). Rose wants to rethink the aims of education and regenerate an environment of personal hope, academic engagement, and political action.
Rose has written a passionate defense of public education, without denying the "inadequacies of curriculum and instruction, the rigidity of school structure, or the `savage inequalities' of funding" of these institutions (p. 150). In concert with the Jeffersonian and Deweyan traditions, Rose believes in spite of the shortcomings, public educational institutions are necessary and essential institutions for a democratic society.
Just as important is personal development of each individual (pp. 139-44). The love of learning and fulfillment of self-awareness can occur at anytime in a person's life. Rose offers personal testimony to illustrate the point. From elementary school through high school Rose "accumulated a spotty academic record," enduring many "years of hazy disaffection" toward his schooling and education (p. 34). In college the study of literature broadened his knowledge and interest in the world. His study of literature "fanned out to and fostered a knowledge of history - intellectual and social history particularly - philosophy, and art. [...] History then led to politics and economics [... which in turn led to] a study of psychology [...] to understand human behavior" (pp. 34-5).
Rose's study of literature would led to a deeper self-awareness and love of learning, a deeper understanding of the (social) world and confidence in his personal self-efficacy to engage and impact social reality. Learning to read and write well "gave [Rose] skills to create with and to act on the world" (p. 36). For Rose this personal transformation didn't occur until young adulthood. It was because of the existence of a wide access to higher education he was able to develop his love of learning and achieve a deeper self-awareness from his formal education. Rose's point is there are millions of people who could experience similar personal transformations, but only if we protect public education and extend its access.
Rose's book is an elegant and accessible defense of the ideals of public education while at times highly critical of established institutional practices. Undeniably American "schools are bedeviled by a host of ongoing problems, from funding to curricular faddism" (p. 148). Rose calls for "capacious critique" of public education "that encourages both dissent and invention, anger and hope [...], adequate to both the daily joy and daily sorrow of our public schools. And we are in desperate need of rich, detailed images of possibility" (p. 152).
Rose's aim to defend and offer hope and promise for public education is a success. Professional educators, parents, and students will find the book engaging, accessible, and realistic. The book will find a multi-partisan audience and promote serious dialogue for understanding just how schools function as "a great theater in which we play out conflicts of the culture" (p. 149). Most importantly the book demonstrates the inadequacy of overwhelming educational aims with economic motives. The book will contribute to reclaiming educational aims from mere economic outcomes and reprioritize the historical roots of public education toward purposes of intellectual, social, civic, ethical, and aesthetic achievement, geared toward personal development, self-awareness, and emotional and spiritual well-being.