In these affectionate letters to Francesca, a first grade teacher at an inner-city school in Boston, Jonathan Kozol vividly describes his repeated visits to her classroom while, under Francesca's likably irreverent questioning, he also reveals his own most personal stories of the years that he has spent in public schools.
Letters to a Young Teacher reignites a numberof the controversial issues Jonathan has powerfully addressed in recent years: the mania of high-stakes testing that turns many classrooms into test-prep factories where spontaneity and critical intelligence are no longer valued, the invasion of our public schools by predatory private corporations, and the inequalities of urban schools that are once again almost as segregated as they were a century ago.
But most of all, these letters are rich with the happiness of teaching children, the curiosity and jubilant excitement children bring into the classroom at an early age, and their ability to overcome their insecurities when they are in the hands of an adoring and hard-working teacher.
From the Hardcover edition.
Forty years ago, Death at an Early Age catapulted Kozol into national prominence as a compassionate yet clearheaded observer of the rotten state of American education. His latest book reviews many of the basic issues he has spent his life exploring through teaching and writing. Here, he cleverly weaves his observations--as well as a thinly disguised biographical memoir--into a series of 16 letters written to Francesca, a first-grade teacher at an inner-city public school in Boston. Overall, the book will delight and encourage first-year (or for that matter, 40th-year) teachers who need Kozol's reminders of the ways that their beautiful profession can bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity. But his encouraging words rarely lapse into treacle. In fact, he offers tough observations on American education addressed to a larger audience. His forceful opinions are convincingly argued--most notably, that educational vouchers will deepen divisions between diverse groups in racially decided cities; that middle schools demoralize students and should be abolished entirely; and that the Gates Foundation made a damaging mistake in aggressively funding a small school craze that will reinforce the racial isolation of the students they enroll. (Sept.)
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August 21, 2007
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