Education

Press Release: Paley, The Boy on the Beach

April 15, 2010
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Press Release: Paley, The Boy on the Beach

Study after study has tackled the question of how young children learn—and for decades Vivian Gussin Paley has argued that if we want the best answers to that question, we simply need to listen to children. In her nearly fifty years as a teacher and writer, Paley has done just that, listening closely as kids, at play and at school, tell stories, invent characters, and imagine situations to help them understand the complicated and surprising world around them. With The Boy on the Beach, Paley continues her listening, using the stories of young children—recounted in their own words—to help understand how they use play and stories to build community in the classroom, on the playground, and at home. She then follows a kindergarten class through one school year, letting us watch as the children get to know one another and their teacher, and incisively analyzing the role their increasingly shared imaginative lives play in their education and development. Never less than charming, yet rich with ideas and insight, The Boy on the Beach is vintage Vivian Paley, sure to be embraced by teachers and parents alike. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Key ingredients for “baking up a good school”

February 25, 2010
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Key ingredients for “baking up a good school”

In an article that appeared in yesterday’s Chicago Journal, reporter Megan Cottrell offers a nice summary of the results of a study conducted by researchers from the Consortium on Chicago School Research and recently published in Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. The study, conducted over a seven-year period, aimed to track the effects of the 1988 decentralization of the Chicago Public School system—a move that granted parents and communities significant resources and authority to reform schools. But, as Cottrell notes, the researchers found that the results of these reforms varied greatly from school to school, some dramatically improving the academic performance of their students, while others floundered. In their book, Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton have sifted through mountains of data to identify the key ingredients required to, as Cottrell’s article puts it, ‘bake up a good school.” Cotrell writes: A good school, it turns out, is a lot like a cake. Put in sugar, eggs and oil, but forget the flour, and all you end up with is a sweet, sloppy mess. Without all the right ingredients, success will continually evade you. It all starts with the chef. . . .

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Still provocative after all these years

February 5, 2010
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Still provocative after all these years

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a profile of one of the most consistently interesting academics today, Mark C. Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University and a prolific author, having published tens of books and innumerable articles on topics from poststructuralism to the visual arts. Recently however Taylor’s copious oeuvre has been slightly overshadowed by his controversial critique of tenure and the structure of the academy, originally published in the New York Times, and the basis of his forthcoming book from Knopf, Crisis on Campus. In the Chronicle article, “The Provocations of Mark Taylor”, Eric Banks revisits the furor created by the article’s radical recommendations for interdisciplinarity and the abolishing of “traditional disciplinary structures” but connects Taylor’s critique to his other work, including his recent book from Columbia University Press, Field Notes From Elsewhere, his 2004 Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption, and his 2007 treatise on religion in contemporary culture After God. Noting his concurrent efforts at reform in the religion department at Columbia, Banks article concludes: “Whether his administration at Columbia, or for that matter his forthcoming Knopf title, will light a fire of reform, the experience is worth trying . . .

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What can we learn from the Chicago public schools?

January 22, 2010
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What can we learn from the Chicago public schools?

Elaine Allensworth, co-author of a new study recently released by the Consortium on Chicago School Research, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, was invited on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight yesterday to discuss the book’s findings. The book tracks the effects over a twenty year period of the radical program of reform put in place by the Illinois General Assembly in 1988—a program which has utilized some controversial tactics to accomplish its goals from the consolidation of students, to staff replacements, to wholesale school closures. Listen in as Allensworth and others deliver an insightful analysis of the project to reform Chicago’s public school system on the Chicago Public Radio website, then read an excerpt from Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. . . .

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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

January 6, 2010
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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

As Patricia Cohen recently wrote in the New York Times reviewing two new books on higher education, “champions of the market can turn up in the oddest places. At the same time that bankers and businessmen are acknowledging the downsides of unregulated capitalism, college and university reformers are urging the academy to more closely embrace the marketplace.” And one of the reformers Cohen reviews is our author. In Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities James C. Garland draws on more than thirty years of experience as a professor, administrator, and university president to argue that a new compact between state government and public universities is needed to make these schools more affordable and financially secure. As Cohen writes: Mr. Garland is concerned with putting public university systems on a solid financial footing. Although they educate 80 percent of the nation’s college students, public institutions have seen their quality sapped by shrinking government aid, changing demographics and growing income inequality. In Saving Alma Mater, Mr. Garland argues that government should end subsidies altogether and allow supply and demand to rule. Let public universities compete for students and set their own tuitions. To ensure that poor students can . . .

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The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion on WGN’s Extension 720

November 30, 2009
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The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion on WGN’s Extension 720

WGN’s Milton J. Rosenberg recently invited several guests on his radio talk show Extension 720 to discuss the press’s recent publication of The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion—the definitive reference book for parents, social workers, researchers, educators, and others who work with children. Listen in as editor-in-chief Richard A. Shweder, contributor Sophie Haroutunian-Gordon, and house editor Mary Laur, talk about their new book and field questions from callers on the WGN Extension 720 website. Bringing together contemporary research on children and childhood from pediatrics, child psychology, childhood studies, education, sociology, history, law, anthropology, and other related areas, The Child contains more than 500 articles—all written by experts in their fields and overseen by a panel of distinguished editors led by anthropologist Richard A. Shweder—each providing a concise and accessible synopsis of the topic at hand. In addition to these topical essays, The Child also contains more than forty “Imagining Each Other” essays, which focus on the particular experiences of children in different cultures. Compiled by some of the most distinguished child development researchers in the world, The Child is an essential addition to the current knowledge on children and childhood. To find out more navigate to this special website for the . . .

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Lose your academic innocence early

November 17, 2009
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Lose your academic innocence early

Like other recent analyses of academic careers, Joseph Hermanowicz’s Lives in Science: How Institutions Affect Academic Careers delivers some rather brutal news for all those wanna-be tenure track professors out there hoping to leave their mark on their discipline—it probably ain’t gonna happen. As Beryl Lieff Benderly writes in a recent review of Hermanowicz’s book for Science Career Magazine: Many aspirants to research careers lack an accurate idea of where they’re headed. In fact, Hermanowicz writes, accepting an unrealistically rosy image of one’s future is a basic step on the road to becoming an academic scientist. That image traditionally includes a pantheon of the greats of one’s discipline, faith in the high intrinsic value of research, and belief that recognition by the scientific community is a valid measure of worth. This image also implies that, with talent and dedication, any young scientist has a chance of making a distinguished contribution.… as the great majority of faculty members learn … the opportunity to do important science and gain major recognition only ever exists for a relative few—overwhelmingly those educated and employed at the most prestigious universities. Yet, as Benderly points out, this certainly isn’t the most surprising revelation Hermanowicz has . . .

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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

October 23, 2009
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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

Today’s Inside Higher Ed. contains an interview with James C. Garland, author of Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities. In the interview Garland discusses the economic difficulties that many public universities currently face, among them declining faculty salaries, dramatic rises in tuition costs, and deferred maintenance that “far exceeds state renovation budgets.” More than just fallout from the nation’s worst recession since the ’30s, as Garland argues “the historic economic model—ample public subsidies resulting in affordable tuition—has broken down and cannot be fixed. The current economic crisis has obviously accelerated the decline, but even after the economy recovers I believe there will be no turning back the clock.” Thus in Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities Garland offers readers a timely and comprehensive “rescue plan” for America’s public universities that would tie university revenues to their performance and exploit the competitive pressures of the academic marketplace to control costs, rein in tuition, and make schools more responsive to student needs. In the interview Garland cites four elements to his approach including: turning public universities into autonomous state-owned entities governed by independent boards of trustees; pushing states to redirect taxpayer dollars that previously . . .

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The hard reality of the hard sciences

August 6, 2009
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The hard reality of the hard sciences

In a review of Joseph C. Hermanowicz’s new book Lives in Science: How Institutions Affect Academic Careers for the current issue of Nature magazine, reviewer Rachael Ivy highlight’s the book’s surprising conclusions about the career paths of scientists (specifically physicists) at the nation’s elite universities: many of them end up feeling like they’ve been conned. Ivy summarizes Hermanowicz’s argument, writing that while physicists at less-prestigious universities learn early on how to console themselves with the probability that their contributions to the field will be marginal, those granted tenure at elite universities tend to remain optimistic about the level of prestige they can achieve in the course of their careers, that is, until their careers draw to a close. Ivy writes: Those at less-prestigious universities, who were also more likely to have graduated from similar institutions, were generally satisfied because of the balance they ultimately achieved in their lives. Like other academics, they had once hoped to achieve scientific greatness, but quickly realized that such recognition would elude them. They dealt with disappointment about their career paths early on. By contrast, physicists who got the early prize of an elite university job were satisfied with their careers—until the end. Then they . . .

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Press Release: Brown, Beyond the Frontier

May 1, 2009
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Press Release: Brown, Beyond the Frontier

In 2006 David S. Brown’s Richard Hofstadter, a sweeping intellectual biography of a man and his era, was published to great acclaim— E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post called it “the most important political book of the year that’s not about politics”—and definitively established the continuing importance of Hofstadter’s work and his legacy as a leader of the Eastern intellectual establishment. With Beyond the Frontier: The Midwestern Voice in American Historical Writing, Brown returns with a collective biography of the prominent intellectuals—including William Appleman Williams, Charles Beard, and Christopher Lasch—who publicly opposed Hofstadter and the growing interventionist consensus he represented among America’s postwar elite. Troubled by the burgeoning military-industrial complex and what they saw as America’s reckless fomenting of the cold war, they argued strenuously for a different path: a return to an older American tradition of progressivism and reform. Only that way, they believed, could the individual freedom and self-sufficiency that historically had represented the heart of American democracy survive. And while America’s imperial ambitions clearly remain strong, Brown shows how these ideas remain potent today, animating the work of prominent figures like William Cronon and Thomas Frank. A fascinating follow-up to Richard Hofstadter, Beyond the Frontier draws . . .

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