BOOK NEWS AND REVIEWS
THE MANUFACTURED CRISIS: MYTHS, FRAUD, AND THE ATTACK ON AMERICA'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS BY DAVID C. BERLINER AND BRUCE J. BIDDLE (1996) ADDISON WESLEY: READING, MASSACHUSETTS.
The authors are dynamic writers and debaters who argue that our schools have been wrongly criticized for their low test scores. Their main concern is that national and international test analyses have been subjected to invalid interpretations of students' performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and international comparisons of mathematics achievement. Such individuals as William Bennett and Chester Finn are targets of criticism in this book. Berliner and Biddle demonstrate statistically that the American students included in these comparisons are too heterogeneous to make valid statements about the condition of our educational system based on aggregating the test performance of all students. In contrast, they report sub-group analyses by different states and different amounts of course preparation in algebra. These results show that American students who were enroled in algebra classes performed at a higher level than Japanese students. In addition, students from states such as Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota performed very well (similar to Korean students, and far above students from most of the other nations) on international mathematics tests.
Their discussion of changing SAT results over the last thirty-five years shows that sampling and demographic factors have led to distorted conclusions. First, the basic normative group prior to the current re-centering study was derived from a highly selective and homogeneous group of students (primarily White middle- and upper-class Protestants) in 1941 who were candidates for admission to Ivy League schools. Second, the ethnic and social-class composition of students who have taken the SAT during the last four decades has expanded far beyond the original group. These factors have produced misconceptions concerning the current level of knowledge of college bound high school students. Berliner and Biddle clarify these misconceptions by reporting and discussing "disaggregated" data, i.e., the performance of particular social-class and ethnic groups. During their discussion of SAT results and other normative data, they emphasize that many areas of the United States contain some of the worst schools and educational farces (particularly urban-inner city schools) in the world. But at the same time, they also stress that there are many top-notch schools in the United States.
Berliner and Biddle hold a similar position concerning national and international test results as Gerald Bracey, another relentless critic of right-wing groups, the U.S. Department of Education and the national media as represented by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Bracey writes an educational column for the Phi Delta Kappan and regularly speaks to educational organizations concerning how the government, the media and various professional and political groups have intentionally misinterpreted test results during the last twenty years. Berliner and Biddle argue that many of the problems which right-wing critics attribute to the public schools are more closely related to the child rearing practices of modern American society. They criticize A Nation At Risk (1983) as being primarily based on political rhetoric instead of valid educational research results, and they debunk many myths about American education such as: America spends considerably more on education than other nations; money is not related to school achievement; costs in education have recently skyrocketed wastefully; American schools do not produce workers with good technical skills; American workers are not productive, and the schools are at fault; industry spends an inordinate amount of money on upgrading the basic skills of its workers; American education doesn't produce enough scientists, mathematicians, and engineers; and American public schools and textbooks no longer promote moral values.
In the final chapter (p. 348), the authors say: "Research will certainly help, but it alone is not sufficient if America really wants to reform public education. Thus, we turn to a second, crucial criterion for successful reform. Public schools can never be judged successful until they provide equal opportunities for all, and true improvements in public education will not come about unless they are based on compassion." This book is an excellent resource for those individuals interested in learning about how massive amounts of statistical information on student performance and school characteristics have been misrepresented by opponents of public education. Gifted students and teachers who are interested in educational research and statistical analysis will find much to stimulate their thinking in The Manufactured Crisis.
THE EINSTEIN FACTOR: A NEW PROVEN METHOD FOR INCREASING YOUR INTELLIGENCE BY WIN WENGER AND RICHARD POE (1996; Prima Publishing; P.O. Box 1260 BK; Rocklin, CA 95677; Tel.: 916-632-4400) -- As one of the leaders of the accelerated learning movement for the last twenty years, Dr. Wenger has developed his imaginative and effective techniques for application to all areas of life and learning. This recent Book-of-the-Month Club selection contains many examples of his Image Streaming Technique for improving learning. It is time that educators use some of the approaches described in this book to help gifted students achieve their full potential.
BIOGRAPHY TODAY: ARTISTS SERIES BY LAURIE L. HARRIS AND CHERIE D. ABBEY, EDITORS (1996; Omnigraphics, Inc.; Penobscot Building; Detroit, MI 48226; Tel.: 800-234-1340). This is a fascinating account of the lives and accomplishment of eighteen great artists, photographers and architects. The well-written accounts include the following information: Birth, Youth, Education, Choosing a Career, Career Highlights, Marriage and Family, Honors and Awards, Selected Works, and Further Reading. Among the individuals discussed here are Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Jasper Johns, Henry Moore, Grandma Moses, Georgia O'Keeffe, I.M. Pei, Diego Rivera, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Students gifted in artistic areas will find that many of these luminaries can serve as role models to help inspire and motivate them.
TRIBUTE TO A CREATIVE GENIUS FOR ALL AGES BY MICHAEL E. WALTERS
CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE HUMANITIES IN THE SCHOOLS
The 1995 biography of the writer and illustrator, Dr. Seuss, is remarkable in its ability to capture the special genius of the individual behind the persona, Ted Geisel (1904-91). Contemporary biographies usually fall into two categories: The tabloid format and the academic tome. This biography is unusual in that it is concerned primarily with the sensibility of the subject under examination. The Random House book is Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel by Judith and Neil Morgan. The authors of this biography are not academics, neither literary nor psychological experts, but are expert journalists. Their interest in Ted Geisel was concerned with capturing the unique qualities of his style and temperament. They were friends in his later years while he resided in La Jolla, California. They therefore knew him as a human being with whom they had constant and personal interaction.
One of Ted Geisel's outstanding traits was his sense of humor. He realized that humor was the link between childhood and adulthood. It was his sense of the absurd that made him able to be enjoyed by both children and adults. He derived the name, Dr. Seuss, from his mother's maiden name. After leaving Oxford University (1926) before finishing his doctorate in English literature, he chose to become an expert in the writing of English itself and in drawing humorous characters. In May 1954, Life magazine published part of John Hersey's report concerning why children in Connecticut's schools were not interested in reading. His conclusion was that it was not a result of methodology (e.g., phonics versus whole language), but that children found the Dick, Jane and Spot readers dreary to their psyches. He urged his friend, Ted Geisel, to adapt his drawings to a narrative of children's literature that would excite, titillate and fascinate young readers.
Another of Geisel's traits was his ability to capture the rhythm of the English language in a manner that unleashes the child's feelings. This was not targeted to a specific ethnic group but to the universal aspects of childhood. The fact that his books are cherished worldwide attests to this achievement. His ability to use simple words and phrases with wonderful imagery shows how genius is magnificent in its sublime simplicity. The "Cat in the Hat" figure has become a universal icon that is recognized and loved the world over.
The next trait of Dr. Seuss's sensibility is the manner in which he combined the medium of cartooning art and the written word. The pictures flow with the word-play like the current of a river. The fusion of thought and feeling is deep and instantaneous. While the drawings can stand as works of art by themselves, their psychological combination with the printed narrative created books that stay with the reader for a lifetime.
His range of subjects was impressive. Among the topics he wrote about were the atomic destruction of Hiroshima, the environment, the problems of the elderly, and a work of inspiration for youth and adults. Gifted students will benefit from reading this biography. They will enjoy learning about the sensibility of the man, Ted Geisel, that the world cherishes as Dr. Seuss.
Maurice D. Fisher, Publisher, Copyright © by Gifted Education Press, Oct.-Nov. 1996