Summer Reading

I don’t, as a general rule, spend nearly enough time reading, either professionally or for pleasure. I love reading, but the demands of job and family often make it difficult to dedicate the time.

This summer, though, I’ve made a commitment to spending some time with the old-fashioned printed word, and so far I’ve managed to get through 2 books. The first is one I’m reading in preparation for the Ed.D. program I’m starting in the fall, Reading Educational Research; How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered. The author, Gerald W. Bracey, dissects research and statistics and discloses how the latter may be twisted to make the former conform with a specific political agenda. He also discusses some of the misuses of educational data and the mistaken comparisons the media, the public, and politicians make using that data between American schools and those around the world. Bracey clearly is not without an opinion of his own (he obviously has no great love for the high-stakes testing components of NCLB, for example), but I don’t feel like that gets in the way of his analysis of much of what is being presented to the American people regarding the relative quality of their public schools. His ultimate argument seems to be one of, “Make sure the research/statistics you are reading are really telling you what they say they are telling you; be an informed consumer of information!”
Bracey’s language is not bogged down with statistical technicality- it’s very readable and even entertaining (to a certain subset of geeky educators, like myself!) and I would recommend this book to those with an interest in public education and the way the quality of public schools is related to the public.

The second book I’ve read so far this summer is An Intimate Understanding of America’s Teenagers; Shaking Hands with Aliens by Bruce Gevirtzman. Gevirtzman is a high school English teacher with 30+ years of experience as a teacher, baseball coach, debate coach, and theater director/author.

I am of 2 minds regarding this book. On one side, Gevirtzman certainly has had a great deal of opportunity to observe teens, and I get the impression that he’s probably an excellent teacher, one who truly cares about his students, who makes himself available to them and has a genuine respect and affection for them. On the other side, he is clearly of the opinion that his experience has made him an expert on the American teenager, and there is a certain arrogance that permeates the pages of this book as a result. While he has some very good insights into the ways teens think (and often don’t think), he tends to moralize in many of his “Mr. G’s Homegrown Advice” sections.
Given the book I read immediately before Gevirtzman’s addressed specifically the comparison of American students’ performance on international comparisons of math and science proficiency, there was one statment that particulary bothered me:

“…One recent international study reported that students in the United States were ranked 14th in the industrial world in math and 11th in science. However–ta-da–American high school students did sit on the very top when it came to their levels of self-esteem. Translated: “American teenagers are among the dumbest in the world, but they feel really good about themselves!”

Mr. Gevirtzman did not include any reference to a specific  “international study” so the reader is unable to independently confirm the statement, and the “translation” is hardly supported by the preceding statement, as there is no indication of how many other industrialized nations were surveyed in the “international study” or how far from the nation that ranked #1 we were.

Overall, though, I like the Gevirtzman book, and think it poses some valuable recommendations for parents of teens (or pre-teens; better to be prepared!)

I’m looking forward to the rest of my summer reading (as yet to be identified), and will try to keep you posted.


1 comment so far

  1. Tracy on

    I love to read as well but can find little time to do so. It has gotten so bad for me that I do not even have time to read a short magazine article.

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