I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:
•teaching and learning; •educational opportunity; •the importance of public education in a democracy; •definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and •the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.
If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.
My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.
want to tell you about two wonderful new books that just came in the mail:
Veteran journalist Barbara Miner’s Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent
Half-Century of Public Education in an Iconic American City and teacher and
literacy scholar Deborah Hicks’ The Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor
of you will recognize Barbara Miner’s name from the progressive newspaper on
education, Rethinking Schools where she was managing editor and is still
a contributor. Miner is a long-time resident of Milwaukee, sent her children to
public school there, and was a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
so she has a deep feel for the city. She adds to that knowledge in-depth
research on education politics and policy over the last fifty years to give us
a book that explores the intricate web of race, class, and public policy in
of the admirable characteristics of the book is the way Miner uses the
specifics of Milwaukee to illustrate broad natural issues—industrial boom and
bust, residential and school segregation, changing ethnic and racial
demographics—and their effects on various attempts to reform public schools
and/or use the schools to solve larger social problems.
of the joys of the book is that while Miner treats these topics with the
gravity and care they warrant, she also knows how to tell a story. The book
zips along with one powerful tale after another, typically populated with
memorable, if not always admirable, characters.
you wanted to introduce someone to the complex sociology and politics of urban
public education over the last generation or two, Lessons from the Heartland
would be a very good place to start.
years ago Michael Harrington wrote in The Other America of the
invisibility of America’s poor. After a brief period during the War on Poverty
when public policy was focused on poor people, they have once again drifted out
of our attention. This is especially true of the rural poor.
Hicks has a long history of important research on literacy and children (e.g., Reading
Lives: Working-Class Children and Literacy Learning), and some years ago
she formed a kind of reading and writing club with seven girls who had migrated
with their families from Appalachia to Cincinnati. She worked with these girls
for half a dozen years, reading books with them, encouraging their writing, and
trying to guide them through their very difficult transition into adolescence.
comes from a similar background, so she has a special understanding of these
girls’ lives, their dreams, the crush of poverty, and the powerful role
literacy can play in their development. The Road Out is quite a book,
for Hicks draws on her own childhood experiences and her considerable knowledge
of literacy as she works with the girls, and she is able to give us a rich
sense of who these girls are, what each struggles with, and what it is that
literature evokes in them. As such, her book is both a careful study of the
effects of poverty on young people and a celebration of reading and writing.
And the girls emerge as complicated and compelling characters; we are drawn
into their lives.
Miner uses a major American city to illustrate big issues about the interaction
of race, class, and schools in the United States. Deborah Hicks turns her focus
in the other direction and uses the difficult lives of seven girls to also
illustrate big issues about poverty, gender, education, and imagination.
Working from a large canvas and a small one, Lessons from the Heartland
and The Road Out have hard but necessary lessons to teach us about doing
well by all of America’s children. You can share this blog post on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Reader through the "share" function located at the top left-hand corner of the blog.