Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling [NOOK Book]

Overview

What do we really want from schools? Only everything, in all its contradictions. Most of all, we want access and opportunity for all children?but all possible advantages for our own. So argues historian David Labaree in this provocative look at the way ?this archetype of dysfunction works so well at what we want it to do even as it evades what we explicitly ask it to do.?
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Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling

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Overview

What do we really want from schools? Only everything, in all its contradictions. Most of all, we want access and opportunity for all children—but all possible advantages for our own. So argues historian David Labaree in this provocative look at the way “this archetype of dysfunction works so well at what we want it to do even as it evades what we explicitly ask it to do.”
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Editorial Reviews

The Atlantic

In this important book, the skeptical, contrarian, and cheerfully pessimistic Stanford education professor Labaree trenchantly exposes the true purposes behind the establishment and the reforms of American public schools and explains why the institution can never fulfill the dreams of those who use it or those who attempt to improve it...Americans want an egalitarian democracy, but they prize individualism; they demand utility, but they are forever socially optimistic. Our school system manifests these contradictory values in abundance, so no matter how often it's reformed, it must perpetually thwart itself.
— Benjamin Schwarz

Jonathan Zimmerman
Why do American schools keep failing? As David Labaree shows, the real question is why we expect them to succeed, given the enormous demands we make of them. Labaree's answers won't please anyone looking for a big quick fix for American education. But they will fascinate anyone who wants to understand our enduring faith in the public schools.
Washington Post - Jay Mathews
The book is only 280 pages long, but so rich in contrarian assaults on cherished American assumptions I cannot adequately summarize it...[Labaree's] candor and depth encourage humility. All of us arguing about how to improve schools could use some of that.
Choice - J. L. Devitis
Labaree is perceptive and lucid in presenting his view that individual self-interest is a driving force in schooling and school reform. Parents are, in principle, committed to equal education for all, but in practice pursue educational advantages for their child. This pursuit of advantage often blunts the common good. Indeed, Labaree's skeptical realism is well taken in this continuing age of consumerism.
The Atlantic - Benjamin Schwarz
In this important book, the skeptical, contrarian, and cheerfully pessimistic Stanford education professor Labaree trenchantly exposes the true purposes behind the establishment and the reforms of American public schools and explains why the institution can never fulfill the dreams of those who use it or those who attempt to improve it...Americans want an egalitarian democracy, but they prize individualism; they demand utility, but they are forever socially optimistic. Our school system manifests these contradictory values in abundance, so no matter how often it's reformed, it must perpetually thwart itself.
Choice - J. L. DeVitis
Labaree is perceptive and lucid in presenting his view that individual self-interest is a driving force in schooling and school reform. Parents are, in principle, committed to equal education for all, but in practice pursue educational advantages for their child. This pursuit of advantage often blunts the common good. Indeed, Labaree's skeptical realism is well taken in this continuing age of consumerism.
Washington Post

The book is only 280 pages long, but so rich in contrarian assaults on cherished American assumptions I cannot adequately summarize it...[Labaree's] candor and depth encourage humility. All of us arguing about how to improve schools could use some of that.
— Jay Mathews

Choice

Labaree is perceptive and lucid in presenting his view that individual self-interest is a driving force in schooling and school reform. Parents are, in principle, committed to equal education for all, but in practice pursue educational advantages for their child. This pursuit of advantage often blunts the common good. Indeed, Labaree's skeptical realism is well taken in this continuing age of consumerism.
— J. L. DeVitis

Library Journal
Labaree (education, Stanford Univ.; How To Succeed in School Without Really Learning)—a vocal skeptic of the American public school system—is no stranger to writing about education. Here, he makes a solid case that American public schools are failing in many ways. First, he covers the history of public schools in America, going into depth about how today's problems started; this can be slow going in parts. In the second half, Labaree examines the state of schools now, especially the lack of focus and divisions between administrators and teachers, which brings life back to the book. It is easy to admire his lack of interest in fixing all of the issues; instead, he shares "non-solutions" to present thinking points for readers and to light a fire under educators. VERDICT Some educators may be put off by Labaree's hard-hitting, realistic approach, and parents and former students may feel disheartened, but he never shies away from reminding us that education is an important facet of our lives and should be treated as such.—Kate Neff, St. Johns Cty. Sch. Dist., St. Augustine, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674058866
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/2/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 689,537
  • File size: 337 KB

Meet the Author

David F. Labaree is Professor of Education at Stanford University and author of How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 From Citizens to Consumers 10

2 Founding the American School System 42

3 The Progressive Effort to Reshape the System 80

4 Organizational Resistance to Reform 106

5 Classroom Resistance to Reform 134

6 Failing to Solve Social Problems 163

7 The Limits of School Learning 195

8 Living with the School Syndrome 222

Notes 259

References 269

Acknowledgments 279

Index 283

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