Curriculum on the Edge of Survival: How Schools Fail to Prepare Students for Membership in a Democracy

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Daniel A. Heller contends that public education is in a downward spiral because we have failed to notice the erosion of the basic curricular dimensions that support the preparation of students as active participants in our ever-changing world. While many books explain procedural knowledge such as how to differentiate instruction, how to create standards-based curriculum, or how to write a constructivist lesson-Curriculum on the Edge of Survival discusses the "what" and "why" rather than the "how." What is the purpose of schools in a free, democratic society, and why is the answer to that question crucial in deciding the most fundamental questions about curriculum?

About the Author:
Daniel A. Heller is the curriculum coordinator for the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union and principal of the Halifax Elementary (K-8) School in Vermont

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Editorial Reviews

Joan Burkhard
Dan Heller provides a thought provoking commentary on the direction of America's schools. His advocacy for helping learners develop habits of caring, involvement, curiosity and commitment will strike a responsive chord in the hearts and minds of dedicated educators everywhere. Dan's work is a sensitive and centering approach to meeting the needs of our country's children as they move through today's broken educational system.
KD Maynard
Heller's four prongs of preparation for participation in a democracy—kindness, thinking, problem-solving, and communications—exemplify the 'less is more' approach to education. Rather than creating automatons with standard-issue knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors, curricula designed with these four tenets would promote actors/agents in the world who would question, take risks, reflect, and consider context, complexity, and connectedness. Such students/citizens would engage in relationships with their learning/living . . . and yes, relationships can be messy. With a populace grounded in these qualities, however, we might have a shot at practicing true democracy.
Leila Christenbury
Dan Heller's thoughtful analysis of the purpose of learning and his impassioned call for a reconceptualization of our educational system are intriguing and timely. In this well-written and compelling book, he invites all of us to re-dedicate our teaching and to make our classrooms more vibrant, more relevant, and more humane.
Sam Intrator Ph.D
Dan Heller is an experienced educator. He has done it all from teaching, to administration, to instructional district-level leadership. By the virtue of his broad success in the multiple arenas of our profession, he has earned the right to be called a leader in the profession. We need more 'leaders' in teaching and—in particular—we need to hear from seasoned expert educators who can weigh in on the inter-relationships between practice and policy. I admire Dan's effort in this regard. He is attempting to help teachers and other educators envision a practice that both addresses the mandates we face yet does so with integrity. [He] strives to articulate modes of approaching the thorny predicaments of practice through a system that celebrates thinking, moral engagement, and holistic conceptions of children living in an ecology.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578866526
  • Publisher: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group Inc
  • Publication date: 11/5/2007
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel A. Heller was a teacher, principal, and district curriculum coordinator during his 33-year career in education.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     vii
Introduction     ix
Curriculum at the Level of Survival     1
Kindness     17
Thinking     33
Problem Solving     47
Communication     63
Words into Actions     79
Conclusion     95
Appendix     109
References     123
About the Author     129
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