I am currently reading The Flat World and Educatioon by Linda Darling-Hammond. Actually, I have been currently reading it for some time. I began it in October on the train to and from Minnesota. I have laid it aside from time to time to allow other books and periodicals to “play through.” Therefore, I am still currently reading it.
I will concede at the outset that it is not a quick or light book to read. Her arguments and the material that she presents to support them are plentiful, voluminous, and dense. You may want to “warm up” on another excellent book: The Death and Life of the Great American School. It is shorter and moves faster. Both are rather critical of “reform” as advocated by the “Reformists,” The Politicians, Pundits, Polemicists, and all too many Professors Who, of All People Should Know Better, and members of The Billionaire Boys’ Club (Ravitch’s term). Both approach the problem from different directions.
Darling-Hammond arguments follow two main lines. She laments great disparities in American schools and recognizes it as being a very real problem. She attributes this largely to the consequences of disparities in funding, not just rich-district, poor-district, but deliberate disparities within the same district. This is ground plowed by Jonathan Kozol in Savage Inequalities (1991), but, further laments Darling-Hammond, after a brief period of improvement in the 1990s, things are getting worse again and any gains are being lost.
But the main thing that distinguishes this book is that Darling-Hammond looks at countries such as Finland, Korea, and Singapore that are vaunted by the Reformists as out-performing American schools. She looks closely at what, specifically, schools in these countries do that accounts for much of their success. And it is anything but what the Reformists would have you believe. She also looks at what some schools in the United States are doing that seems to be making a difference.
A brief review like this one is necessarily very superficial. I think that in future posts,I would like to share ideas as I come to them – sort of like reading notes.