I just had a new book come out, Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us. The book is a series of thirteen interrelated essays with an introduction and conclusion. In it, I try to bring the topics of my work over the last thirty years to bear on educational policy in our time.
Below, I reprint the Preface and Table of Contents.
Introduction: Why School?
1. In Search of a Fresh Language of Schooling
2. Finding Our Way: The Experience of Education
3. No Child Left Behind and the Spirit of Democratic Education
4. Business Goes to School
5. Reflections on Intelligence in the Workplace and the Schoolhouse
6. On Values, Work, and Opportunity
7. Standards, Teaching, Learning
8. Remediation at the University
9. Re-mediating Remediation
10. Politics and Knowledge
11. Soldiers in the Classroom
12. A Language of Hope
13. Finding the Public Good Through the Details of Classroom Life
Conclusion: The Journey Back and Forward
Why School? comes from a professional lifetime in classrooms, creating and running educational programs, teaching and researching, writing and thinking about education and human development. It offers a series of appeals for big-hearted social policy and an embrace of the ideals of democratic education – from the way we define and structure opportunity to the way we respond to a child adding a column of numbers. Collectively, the chapters provide a bountiful vision of human potential, illustrated through the schoolhouse, the work place, and the community.
We need such appeals, I think, because we have lost our way.
We live in an anxious age and seek our grounding, our assurances in ways that don’t satisfy our longing—that, in fact, make things worse. We’ve lost hope in the public sphere and grab at private solutions, which undercut the sharing of obligation and risk and keep us scrambling for individual advantage. We’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids becoming economic indicators. We’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement – that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the world – to a test score. Though we pride ourselves as a nation of opportunity and a second chance, our social policies have become terribly ungenerous. We rush to embrace the new – in work, in goods, in the language we use to describe our problems—yet long for tradition, for craft, for the touch of earth, wood, another hand.
We do live in uncertain and unsettling times, but one can imagine all sorts of responses, and we have been taking—and have been led to take—those that are fear-based, inhumane, less than noble. We yearn for more and as a society deserve better. This yearning was one of the forces that drove the election of Barack Obama.
My hope is that the contents of this book in some small way contribute to a reinvigorated discussion of why we educate in America, maybe through a particular story, maybe because of information I can provide from my own teaching and research, maybe from a perspective that provides a different way to see.