Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us

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The New Press, 2009 - Education - 177 pages
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In the tradition of Jonathan Kozol, this little book is driven by big questions. What does it mean to be educated? What is intelligence? How should we think about intelligence, education, and opportunity in an open society? Why is a commitment to the public sphere central to the way we answer these questions?

Drawing on forty years of teaching and research, from primary school to adult education and workplace training, award-winning author Mike Rose reflects on these and other questions related to public schooling in America. He answers them in beautifully written chapters that are both rich in detail--a first-grader conducting a science experiment, a carpenter solving a problem on the fly, a college student’s encounter with a story by James Joyce--and informed by a deep and powerful understanding of history, the psychology of learning, and the politics of education.

Rose decries the narrow focus of educational policy in our time: the drumbeat of test scores and economic competition. Why School? will be embraced by parents and teachers alike, and readers everywhere will be captivated by Rose’s eloquent call for a bountiful democratic vision of the purpose of schooling.

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I loved the book. It was at once funny, serious, thoughtful, frank, personal, and deeply insightful. The book is already providing a guided inspiration as I consider how to support STEM educators in their work to develop thoughtful, discerning, and empathetic democratic citizens. The book framed broad sweeping problems within our system but provided great detail and examples. The commentary on the narrow definitions of knowledge that separate "hand from brain", the technocratic solutions to deeply social, political, and historical struggles, the necessary vigilance that democratic citizens must practice as we care for our public institutions were beautifully nuanced. These points were also wonderfully balanced by the stories and descriptions that left me with incredible hope about the beauty that is alive within public education. I loved the descriptions of teachers and students across multiple contexts who were wide awake and thinking about the system in which they were apart. It seems as though I have been searching for this book all along. 


i n t ro d u c t i o n Why School?
one In Search of a Fresh Language of Schooling
The Experience of Education
thre e No Child Left Behind and the Spirit of Democratic Education
four Business Goes to School
f ive Politics and Knowledge
s i x Reflections on Intelligence in the Workplace and the Schoolhouse
s even On Values Work and Opportunity
n i n e Remediation at the University
t e n Remediating Remediation
e l even Soldiers in the Classroom
twe lve A Language of Hope
t h i rt e e n Finding the Public Good Through the Details of Classroom Life
concl u s i o n The Journey Back and Forward
not e s

e i g h t Standards Teaching Learning

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About the author (2009)

Mike Rose, a professor in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is the author of Lives on the Boundary, The Mind at Work, and Possible Lives. Among his many awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Grawemeyer Award in Education, and the Commonwealth Club of California Award for Literary Excellence in Nonfiction. He lives in Santa Monica.

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