Successful Failure: The School America Builds

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Westview Press, Nov 10, 2008 - Education - 256 pages
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In this controversial work, Hervé Varenne and Ray McDermott explore education as cultural phenomenon—a construct of artifice and reality we impose upon ourselves. The authors discuss in five case studies how the American education system defines and measures success and failure, why there is polarization between suburban schools and urban schools, and what about our system leads us to focus on the negative. Their exploration focuses not on the people or the activities of the system, but on the institutions themselves: who decided what was a success or failure? How was the identification done, and with what consequences?This important and timely book is a must-read for anyone interested in educational reform, the American educational system, and the anthropology of education.

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Introduction Herve Varenne and Ray McDermott
The Makings of Some Educational Facts
The Cultural Construction of a Learning Disability
Literacies in Action
3 The Voice of the Choir the Voices in the Choir
4 Joint Action on the Wild Side of Manhattan
5 Racing in Place
Education and the Making of Cultural Facts
8 Local Constructions of Educational Facts
Beyond Explaining Why
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Name Index
Subject Index

6 Disability as a Cultural Fact
7 Ways with Theoretical Words

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Page 178 - There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, " Good fences make good neighbors.
Page 178 - Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down.
Page 147 - The culture of poverty, however, is not only an adaptation to a set of objective conditions of the larger society. Once it comes into existence, it tends to perpetuate itself from generation to generation because of its effect on the children. By the time slum children are age six or seven, they have usually absorbed the basic values and attitudes of their subculture and are not psychologically geared to take full advantage of the changing conditions or increased opportunities that may occur in their...
Page 178 - To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance; "Stay where you are until our backs are turned !" We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Page 1 - I." The Chinese "I" has seven strokes, intricacies. How could the American "I," assuredly wearing a hat like the Chinese, have only three strokes, the middle so straight?
Page 1 - It was when I found out I had to talk that school became a misery, that the silence became a misery. I did not speak and felt bad each time that I did not speak. I read aloud in first grade, though, and heard the barest whisper with little squeaks come out of my throat "Louder," said the teacher, who scared the voice away again.
Page 120 - The difficult thing to explain about how middle class kids get middle class jobs is why others let them. The difficult thing to explain about how working class kids get working class jobs is why they let themselves.
Page 136 - It was marvellous with what confidence and precision they went about their ordered world. Everything, you see, had been made to fit their needs; each of the radiating paths of the valley area had a constant angle to the others, and was distinguished by a special notch upon its...
Page 166 - He may belong to a small community, as the small boy belongs to a gang rather than to the city in which he lives. We all belong to small cliques, and we may remain simply inside of them. The "organized other" present in ourselves is then a community of a narrow diameter.

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