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Tribal Savagery

In a sequence of one-step-leads-to-another reading too indirect to be worth the column-inches for description here, I ended up with a dog-eared and previous-reader-annotated copy of "Beyond the Classroom" in hand. It's one of hundreds of books which target, with greater or lesser success, what is and isn't going on in K-12 public education, a 13-year process which is supposed to (and once did) metamorphose illiterate and innumerate little savages into civilized and knowledgeable citizens. Without reservation (pun intended) I can testify that the 1995 Laurence Steinberg 223-page effort (the Washington Post called it "an important book with important truths" so it must be so) the best-I've-yet-seen analysis of the Students-Who-Won't-Learn question, and it makes its points without charts, tables, or Hindu ("borrowed" by the Arabs, who then put their name on it) numerology and symbols. It's good, not because, like most books on the SWWL subject, it devotes a lot of ink to the racial achievement pattern -blacks and Hispanics worse than Whites, Whites worse than Asians-and to the parental guidance -or lack thereof-and to the "disengaged-student" question; but because it goes into a subject wherein, unlike other books on the SWWL subject, it devotes a lot of ink to student-peer-pressure -to pursue or disdain learning-and how it prevails, not only in the usual-suspect inner-city schools, but similarly in suburban and rural schools, and across the entire socio-economic spectrum. If you credit Steinberg with accurate representation of all the statistical studies he's run and referenced (but not re-printed) then his findings are as applicable to what's going on in East Overshoe, VT, Central School as in Harlem, NYC's PS 7, a 3-out-of-10 quality-scoring school which was never 10-10, and in Boston's highly-gentrified Longwood neighborhood, Boston Latin School, which once was 10-10 but was pushed from educational grace in the 1970's.

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