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seeking books that defend our current U.S. educational system
March 31, 2014 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Public librarian here... my lack of knowledge on educational theory is making me think that I should crowdsource this question for a meticulous patron. He's been reading books about educational philosophy that critique our current system and provide alternative educational strategies, such as titles by John Caldwell Holt or Paolo Freire, and he's looking for what he phrased as "the best book" to read in defense of the way our current system is structured (utilizing standardized tests, etc.). He's looking for something that's pretty authoritative but also accessible for a layperson. Most of what I'm finding in our library critiques the current system. Any ideas?
posted by agathafrye to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There's plenty of academic and think tank pdfs out there. A filetype search should bring up lots.
posted by jpe at 4:18 PM on March 31


You may want to go WAY back in time for that book.

I hate to say it but the way we teach today, our 9 month schedule, the large number of students in a classroom, the cirriculum in general are all relics from a past period. The idea was that we were training drones to work in factories, so we wanted them to be pliant, regimented and to learn by rote. It's kind of hard to defend.

There's a book from 1931 called The Theory of Education in The United States. It can at least frame the thought process. (I'm reading it in bits and pieces. from the link.)

Another at least examines the system as it exists today (although hard to say it DEFENDS it) The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:23 PM on March 31



"Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District"
and this article might point you in the right direction.
posted by srboisvert at 4:29 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Thanks, these are great suggestions. Keep 'em coming! JPE, I have found some materials in my search, but I'm looking for books or articles that other people who have knowledge in the public education sphere specifically recommend.
posted by agathafrye at 4:36 PM on March 31


Chick out Eric Hanushek's website. He is an education economist, is an authority in his field, and has numerous articles on his website for both academic and general audiences. Certainly he's gotten cool results on e.g. measuring teacher effectiveness using standardized test scores.
posted by deadweightloss at 4:42 PM on March 31


It's older (1996), but I think The Manufactured Crisis is a pretty solid defense of American public schools, while still acknowledging that problems exist. You know, the kids (and their schools) are all right.

It's definitely written for the layperson and made a decent splash when it came out, because the authors were openly pro-public schools and anti-doomsayers. IMO, it's still a solid read and thought-provoking.
posted by clerestory at 4:56 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]


Chester Finn is about the only established education scholar I can think of who supports current education reform -- Common Core, high stakes testing, privatization, etc. Otherwise, check out the economists and TED-talk types. They tend to love neoliberal reform and big data.
posted by quixotictic at 8:58 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]


Reading Diane Ravitch is worthwhile, especially as she has changed her mind about things like charter schools. I mention this to point out that she is open minded, not that I agree with her position.

Reading the Common Core standards is definitely worth while, and they defend themselves. The standards are solid, even though I disagree with what they suggest for kindergarten and compulsory schooling in general. Some of them are so vague as to be useless, but not all.

I would also look on the department of education website, and look for syllabi for masters in ed programs.
posted by mearls at 5:06 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]


Thanks to all of you for these resources! I wish I could mark all of you with "best answers."
posted by agathafrye at 10:32 AM on April 2


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