Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can't Solve Our Problems-and How We Can

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In recent years, great pressure has been placed upon our beleaguered educational system to help solve our nation's growing social and economic problems. It is the contention of this provocative book by James P. Comer, M.D. - director of the Yale University Child Study Center School Development Program - that the deteriorated state of America's public schools is a reflection of problems at our cultural core that must be addressed simultaneously with school change. In Waiting for a Miracle, Comer, a pioneer who ...
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Overview

In recent years, great pressure has been placed upon our beleaguered educational system to help solve our nation's growing social and economic problems. It is the contention of this provocative book by James P. Comer, M.D. - director of the Yale University Child Study Center School Development Program - that the deteriorated state of America's public schools is a reflection of problems at our cultural core that must be addressed simultaneously with school change. In Waiting for a Miracle, Comer, a pioneer who remains a leading figure in modern school reform, discusses the causes of these problems and presents a viable approach to resolving them - an approach that focuses on the crucial roles of children, family, and community. Beginning with his own deeply moving experiences as an African-American child growing up poor, Comer draws on more than thirty years of community involvement and educational commitment to show how we can make our schools the most important instrument of change. Using examples from his own successful strategies for troubled schools, he provides a detailed blueprint of how sensitively designed programs can and have already begun to make dramatic differences in the classroom.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Child psychiatrist Comer, director of the Yale University Child Study Center and author of Maggie's Dream, conflates his personal journey with that of American public schooling. As the child of a goal-oriented African American family not far removed from poverty, he was directed towards achievement early on. Why then, he asks, did not other talented black friends achieve their potential as well. In his thoughtful, discursive attempt to provide an answer, Comer tackles what he calls "myths"that of genetic determination and the perception of blacks as being unsuccessful. These myths, he contends, are often played out "most sharply and hurtfully in schools." He looks at how receding circles of influences (family, school and peers, policy-makers) shape children in general, and then how those networks are disrupted for African Americans. He looks at several successful projects aimed at underprivileged children, and argues for a foundation that would complement funds from other sources and shore up projects that are under attack because they are race specific. Like Comer's other suggestions for schools, it is admirable but also unrealistically expensive. Comer doesn't engage in polemics, but rather distills his 50 years of experience and observation with optimism and a view of the 21st century as an "important psychological watershed." (Oct.)
Library Journal
Comer (Raising Black Children, LJ 9/15/92) is one of the best-known experts and consultants on reforming troubled schools and serves as a prime resource for educators interested in the essential issue of how to educate children who have been left challenged by the conditions of their daily life. Comer is indeed a visionary, but here his brilliant vision emerges only after the reader has been taken through a confused jumble of personal anecdote, racial politics, and reports of school reform efforts. The author's thesisthat schools can do nothing to help African American children until our culture rejects stereotyping and understands how injustice has created caste groupsis countered by a list of impressive programs that have worked in certain schools to boost test scores, success rates, and self-confidence. While the conundrum renders the book theoretically uninteresting, it may serve as a useful source for education professors looking for a list of laudable (and proven) school reform programs focusing on parents and children.Jessica George, Illinois State Univ. Lib., Normal
Kirkus Reviews
A confused, anecdotal argument for change in America's public school system.

As a leader of the School Development Program, Comer (Child Psychiatry/Yale Univ.; Maggie's American Dream, 1988, etc.) has done much to better the plight of underprivileged students (especially black children) in our public schools. With his help, the SDP has effectively raised student morale, encouraged community spirit, and standardized test scores in some of the nation's poorest regions. Unfortunately, Comer's theoretical analysis of America's educational system isn't nearly as successful as his practice. Comer identifies two "myths" that he blames for most of the problems: First, "we believe that the life outcome of an individual is the result almost entirely of genetically determined intelligence and will"; second, "whites have been successful, and Blacks have not." Comer doesn't persuade us that these myths are at the root of the trouble, and in fact, it's highly debatable that they are even widely held. He then tries to "prove" his points with anecdotal evidence and poorly defined statistics. In the end, Comer's main prescription for change, while basically sound, is hardly groundbreaking. He believes that a child's education begins at home and in the community, and that schools can only accomplish so much without the support of these two networks.

Comer offers many success stories to make his point—his own story, as both a student and a professional, is the running theme throughout the book—but ultimately this falls short as a study of the problem, as a guide to improving it, and even as the thinly masked autobiography it actually is.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452276468
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 9/1/1998
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.34 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.74 (d)

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