The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons from America from a Small School in Harlem


Teaching the lessons of New York's most famous public school, Deborah Meier provides a widely acclaimed vision for the future of public education. With a new preface reflecting on the school's continuing success.

A leading voice and visionary in education teaches the lessons of her school and experience. Taking on pessimists and privatizers, Meier tells why all public education is vital to the future of the country and our ...

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The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem

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Teaching the lessons of New York's most famous public school, Deborah Meier provides a widely acclaimed vision for the future of public education. With a new preface reflecting on the school's continuing success.

A leading voice and visionary in education teaches the lessons of her school and experience. Taking on pessimists and privatizers, Meier tells why all public education is vital to the future of the country and our children.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The founder and principal of excellent small schools in East Harlem . . . Meier wants to make all students capable of participating in and sustaining a democracy. . . . Doubters must read Deborah Meier to take a look at that success up close, to watch it begin and grow and flourish. —Lorene Cary, The New York Times Book Review

"Meier pledges her faith 'in the extraordinary untapped capacities of all our children'; but, unlike so many radical reformers, she is also firmly rooted in the reality of the classroom. . . .What has propelled people like Meier from the periphery to the center of the ongoing school debate is the recognition that a new and different form of public school is no longer a luxury." —James Traub, The New Yorker

"Written in prose that runs like a clear stream past the sludge of educational discourse. . . .The fate of public education today depends on whether we listen to . . . the Deborah Meiers of the land." —Joseph Featherstone, The Nation

"A fiery manifesto of Meier's plan for the salvation of public education." —Los Angeles Times

"A book not of blueprints and slogans, but of essays-reflective and analytical. The Power of Their Ideas is the product of a lively mind." —The Washington Post

"Anyone who wants to get insight into the current waves of endless 'reform' debate should read it." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"Meier documents her 30 years in schools. . . . She has captured the national imagination in a way that few public school teachers do." —Muriel Cohen, The Boston Globe

"Destined to change the way we think about teaching and learning, schooling and education." —William Ayers, Rethinking Schools

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An educational reformer, teacher and veteran school principal, Meier has led the movement to restructure large high schools into small, vibrant educational enclaves-schools within a school, housed within the same building. In a visionary, hopeful blueprint for revitalizing America's public schools, she first discusses her work as co-principal of Central Park East, an alternative public secondary school in East Harlem, New York, which she founded in 1974. Its students, mostly black and Hispanic, come from low-income families; 90% of them graduate high school, and 90% of those go on to college. Meier advocates small classes that encourage independent, critical thinking by using real-world exercises. Her blueprint for reform calls for enclave schools with autonomy over teaching; parents' right to choose the schools their children will attend; and student participation in socially useful, school-directed work experiences. 40,000 first printing; author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Defending public education is difficult, but the best defense is by example, says Meier. As founder of the highly regarded Central Park East schools in Harlem, she has provided such examples-and more. Throughout her account, Meier stresses the need for schools that develop human beings and citizens rather than skilled workers or educated academics. Privatization would open education to extremist influences and destroy these goals, she argues. Current problems in public education are caused by economic inequities, large and unwieldy school bureaucracies, and unrealistic demands for academic performance. Overall, Meier's account is an opinionated treatise relying less on research findings or published data than on experience and positive faith in its outcome. There is much good, persuasive writing here in support of traditional, progressive education. Recommended as a solid contribution to any education collection.-Arla Lindgren, St. John's Univ., New York
Meier, teacher and president of the Center for Collaborative Education in New York, issues an eloquent defense of public education, describing why public education is vital to the future of our democracy and our children, and why good education is, in fact, possible, based on her experience at Central Park East, where 90 percent of the students graduate and go on to college in a city where the average graduation rate is 50 percent. Lacks an index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807031131
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 801,592
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Deborah Meier is founder of the Central Park East Schools and the Mission Hill School in Boston. She has been a fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and is vice chair emeritus of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Her many awards include a MacArthur Prize Fellowship. She is also the author of In Schools We Trust.

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Table of Contents

Preface 2002
Preface 1995
1 In Defense of Public Education 3
2 Central Park East: An Alternative Story 15
3 The School at Work 47
4 Myths, Lies, and Other Dangers 67
5 Choice Can Save Public Education 91
6 Small Schools 107
7 Respect 121
8 Reinventing Teaching 129
9 It's Academic: Why Kids Don't Want to Be "Well-Educated" 161
10 On Failure, Persistance, and Public Education 179
Suggested Readings 187
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2004


    A moving and powerful blueprint for the the future of public education. I would like to visit CPESS one day to see their successful methods in action. This book opened my eyes to the potential of progressive education--I recommend it for anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2003

    Meier's Ideas Empowering Others

    Deborah Meier's 'The Power of Their Ideas' provides actual proof that it's public education in small autonomous settings (CPESS) which guards against extremism from the right or left and the apathy inbetween. As one who's been to Central Park East, I've witnessed what the power of HER vision and tenacity can accomplish. A must read for anyone beginning, currently practicing or ending a career in education,including administrators, and for the parents whose children we serve.

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