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LEARNING TO READ AND THE SPIN DOCTORS OF SCIENCE: The Political Campaign to Change America's Mind About How Children Learn To Read. D. Taylor. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1998. 441 pp. $26.95. Question: When is a three-year-old book reviewed in a professional journal? Answer: When the content is more relevant, important, and timely than ever before.

Such is the case with Taylor's scathing account of recent happenings in the world of beginning reading instruction. Using strong language, the author deconstructs the many mythologies that surround literacy education, and asks tough questions of all who are involved in developing curricula and formulating policy in this arena.

To this end, Taylor systematically takes on the often unquestioned arguments that have been brought forth to support the scientific basis of phonics-based literacy curricula. She takes a close look at the body of phonemic awareness research and calls into question many of the conclusions that have been largely accepted as "common sense" approaches for teaching young children to read. Then, through a careful review, she shows that many of these conclusions are neither "common" (embraced by all) nor "sensical" (reasonable) responses to the challenge of literacy instruction.

This critique is particularly timely, as many of the studies that the author analyzes were supported by then Governor of Texas George W. Bush, and were used in the development of the Reading Excellence Act. President Bush's current involvement in education reform makes this text even more relevant on a national level today than when it was Originally published.

In this disturbing account, the author invites readers to take another look at the practices and pedagogies that characterize American reading instruction, and to ask hard questions about the research and assumptions that undergird them. In short, teachers, parents, and others who care about children and their learning must work to ensure that sound theory, not political spin-doctoring, serve as the basis for education reform. Reviewed by Patricia A. Crawford, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Central Florida, Orlando

TOMORROW'S CHILDREN: Meeting the Needs of Multiracial and Multiethnic Children at Home, in Early Childhood Programs, and at School. F. Wardle. Denver, CO: Center for the Study of Biracial Children, 1999. 115 pp. $25.00. Interracial children in U.S. schools have tripled in number during the past 30 years, with a projected increase well into the 21st century. The 1998 U.S. Bureau of the Census report showed that the number of interracial marriages in this country now exceeds 1.7 million. That same year, Time magazine stated that the number of mixed-race babies is increasing 26 times as fast as any other group in the United States.

Wardle is Executive Director of Denver's Center for the Study of Biracial Children. Since 1991, the center has supported and advised interracial families, and trained teachers and other professionals working with such families.

Numerous myths regarding interracial and interethnic families persist. Wardle points out a number of such false assumptions: 1) most Americans are of pure racial heritage; 2) racial and ethnic groups are very different; 3) interracial marriages are bound to fail; 4) biracial children suffer greatly; 5) given a choice, biracial children will choose a minority identity; 6) only minority communities support interracial families; 7) all cultural celebrations support diversity; 8) multicultural education supports all children; 9) the media reflects the true world of interracial families and biracial children; and 10) government policies support all forms of diversity.

Wardle stresses that interracial families must destroy such myths by assuming an advocacy role. Families must confront and counter myths whenever they come across them, whether in education, employment, the media, or society at large.

This small, six-chapter book introduces ideas and activities for the development of healthy biracial children at home and school, and describes ways to support interracial families in early childhood programs. It also discusses the adoption of biracial children, and concludes with a lengthy list of books and other materials for adults and children about interracial and interethnic families. Reviewed by Mildred R. Donoghue, Professor of Education and Reading, California State University, Fullerton

HISTORY IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Creative Drama and Theatre for the Social Studies Classroom. S. M. Fennessey. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000. 172 pp. $19.50. Fennessey demonstrates that it is possible for intermediate and middle school children to learn about historical periods and events through dramatizations and role-play. The author describes, in detail, step-by-step strategies for using drama that have worked in her own classroom. Her strategies include pantomime, movement activities, improvisations, scripted drama, oral interpretation, debates, public speaking, readers theater, and story telling.

In addition to her descriptions of these strategies, Fennessey includes a wide variety of preplanned drama activities with a historical focus, as well as an integrated unit on slavery and abolitionism. This is an excellent resource for intermediate or middle school social studies teachers. Reviewed by Judith Kieff, Associate Professor, University of New Orleans

THE DISCIPLINE OF HOPE: Learning From a Lifetime of Teaching. H. Kohl. New York: The New Press, 1998. 350 pp. $18.95. Besides being the autobiographical story of a prominent educator, The Discipline of Hope is a fascinating account of Herbert Kohl's exploration of teaching as an art and a craft. Spanning his career from the early 1960s to the present, this book details Kohl's creative ability to touch children's lives by "thinking outside of the box."

Written in a conversational, narrative format, The Discipline of Hope is especially relevant to educators who deal with preservice teachers, multicultural classrooms, back-to-basics mandates, urban education, standardization and accountability environments, and student exceptionality.

The Discipline of Hope is a valuable resource for professional development, teacher educators, critical theorists, education historians, and any teacher who simply wants to be inspired. The book reads like a novel, and is enhanced by Kohl's use of his students' writings. It provides practical lessons and creative pedagogical ideas culled from a master teacher's life experiences. Kohl's unswerving optimism--namely, that all children can learn through child-centered education--provides a refreshing counterpoint to the restrictive reforms currently sweeping education practice.

Kohl's unmitigated enthusiasm and his love for children are best expressed in his own words: "There's no end to the delights and joys of teaching, no limit to the challenges we will continue to face in order to serve children well, and no limit to the creativity and love adults can and should bring to helping children grow through teaching, which is at its heart the discipline of hope." Discipline of Hope is joyful, inspiring, and, most of all, fun to read. Reviewed by Raymond A. Horn, Jr., Assistant Professor of Secondary Education and Educational Leadership, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas

SCHOOLS THAT LEARN: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. P. Senge (Ed.). Cambridge, MA: The Society for Organizational Learning, 2000. This new addition to the Fifth Discipline Resource Book series offers practical advice for educators, administrators, and parents on how to strengthen and rebuild our schools. The strength of the work stems from the interplay of what schooling might be with accounts of what it too often actually is.

There is much to commend in this work. In the spirit of our postmodern and hypertextual times, the book offers the reader alternative logics through which to experience the lengthy text. As the authors declare in "How To Read This Book" (p. 23), the reader can "Start Anywhere; Go Anywhere" and "Make the Book Your Own." Each reader, depending on his or her background or setting, will find a different path through the book. As the authors write:

If you look only for answers here, you may become frustrated; each coauthor and contributor has his or her own point of view. And they often disagree. By taking on the practices in this book (and others) and by exploring the results, you and your school or community can create your own capability to create your future. (pp. 23-24)

Readers will be informed, challenged, inspired, troubled, and made to see how important an issue lifelong learning is. Rather than place blame, Schools That Learn simply acknowledges the opportunities that are before each of us. In order to motivate readers to take action, Senge and his contributors then explore the gap between the desired state of learning and the current state.

This book does a wonderful job of interpreting the theory of learning organizations and the five disciplines, putting them into terms that relate to the life of schools and the lives of people who work and learn there. Schools That Learn describes successful practices implemented across the country and around the world, as schools attempt to learn, grow, and reinvent themselves. The book features case studies, articles, and anecdotes from such prominent educators as Howard Gardner. I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to rethink the "quick fixes" currently being foisted upon too many children, teachers, parents, and administrators. Reviewed by Russ Firlik, Principal, South School, New Canaan, Connecticut, and Adjunct Lecturer, Fairfield University

WHAT COUNTS AS KNOWLEDGE IN TEACHER EDUCATION? Advances in Teacher Education, Vol. 5. J. D. Raths & A. C. McAninch (Eds.). Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing, 1999. 175 pp. $73.25 cloth; $39.50 paper. This collection of thought-provoking essays, the first volume to appear in the Advances in Teacher Education series since 1991, is a scholarly book, intended for teacher educators and deans of schools of education. The contributors bring contemporary perspectives to age-old epistemological questions. As Raths and McAninch explain in their preface, the volume was inspired by two of the field's "most fundamental problems: 1) What is the nature of knowledge about teaching? 2) Who produces it?" (p. vii).

The contributors' diverse responses to these questions reflect the discussion occurring within the field as teacher educators grapple with epistemological issues. The contributors recognize that the "scientific" approach to research on teaching has come under attack, while views about the sources of teacher knowledge have expanded. Teaching is now regarded as more complex and idiosyncratic than previous scientific research would indicate, and scholars are beginning to recognize the personal and experiential sources of teacher knowledge. These shifts in perspective have arisen, in part, because teachers are demanding a greater connection between research about teaching and the craft of teaching itself.

The essays in this volume range from the general to the more particular, from Christine Sleeter's "Toward Wisdom Through Conversation," which reviews the divergent perspectives that have informed research on teaching, to Joseph Stornello's analysis of the persistent ideological influence of education historian Elwood Cubberly. Several issues come up repeatedly: the changing role of the scholar in teacher education research; the recent interest in narrative research methodologies; changing definitions and interpretations of "knowledge," including content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge; the relationship between meaning and knowledge; and the increasing conflation of knowledge and belief.

The reader who is prepared to give the essays in this volume the close reading they deserve will be challenged and engaged. Given today's debates about high-stakes testing, it is especially important that teacher educators--and teachers themselves--give careful consideration to what we mean by knowledge. Reviewed by Patricia A. Cantor, Associate Professor and Chair, Education Department, Plymouth State College, Plymouth, NH
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 6, 2001
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