"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kozol and Klein Books Reviewed

A clip from the LA Times:
If only it could have been one book.

Such was my wishful thinking, infused with a certain anger, as I read "Letters to a Young Teacher" and "A Class Apart," two up-close accounts of two radically different public school experiences written by, respectively, veteran educator Jonathan Kozol and Washington Post reporter Alec Klein. Of course, I figured just by the titles and authors that I was in for much more contrast than convergence. Kozol, 70, is the unsparing social critic and fierce public-school advocate whose last work, "The Shame of the Nation," detailed the almost intractable nature of public-school inequality in America 50 years after Brown vs. Board of Education; Klein, 40, is a journalist who in his book appears less influenced by political ideology than by the tenets of modern feature writing, which include a conscious neutrality on deeper education issues.

"Letters" uses the time-honored literary device of correspondence to steadily illuminate the long-standing concerns of the letter writer and those of Francesca, a novice first-grade teacher who toils in the tough, mostly black Roxbury area of Boston and who functions as Kozol's younger alter ego; "Class" is much more diffuse, full of characters, situations and odd moments meant to feel like an almost random year-in-the-life look at exclusive, high-powered Stuyvesant High School in New York City -- Klein's alma mater, by the way. . . .

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