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July 21, 1971 - Image 11

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1971-07-21

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Wednesda Jul 21 1971

DAILY STREET ART FAIR SUPPLEMENT

Page Seven-S

booksbooks books

Classroom Reports

How To Survive In Your Native
Land by James Herndon.
Simon and Schuster, $5.95
Fragments Of A Lesson Plan, by
Robert Belenky. Beacon Press,
$7.50
Schools Where Children Learn, by
Joseph Featherstone. Liveright,
$5.95
How 2 Gerbils 20 Goldfish 200
Games 2,000 Books And I
Taught Them How To Read, by
Steven Daniels. Westminster,
95c
Letter To A Teacher, by the
Schoolboys of Barbiana. Vin-
tage, $1.95 (paper)
Summerhill USA, by Richard E.
Bull. Penguin, $1.25
Pa F v'EN PECHMAN
Education Pro-

or the hall, fully experiencing
the situation from his insightful
and provocative perspective. He
captures the schools' idiosyncra-
cies with a restrained fury that
is also empathetic and fully ap-
preciative of the complexity of
the issues. He reels off yarns
about people and events which
are uproariously funny, then
abruptly focuses on the diffi-
culties inherent in teaching an
aged and stagnant curriculum
that mesmorizes rather than in-
spires. More broadly, he makes
us see the routine horror of the
junior high's bureaucratic in-
transigence-its tenacious atten-
tion to rules, regulations, order
and petty detail.
When grades, hall passes, and
irrelevant classes become to
-ions for JimHes1

hood organizing. Belenky's ex-
perience raises important ques-
tions: What is the role of the
professional in co m mu nity
work? How can the barriers
that foster alienation and inhib-
it camaraderie be destroyed? Is
there an alternative to the nu-
clear family, an institution
which is "simply not doing
well?"
Belenky introduces his book
with a letter written to his wife
while finishing his graduate stu-
dies at Harvard. In it, he ex-
presses his commitment to work
with people who need help and
anxiously reflects on his not
in the psychoss
"My only
find
11Iasl,
e jo s a tiam of -eihoIssod
d asd asta rs
ii15.One suisiner. as 5 pig-
si fr s teaches courses In
e:, (sns( lors a roun und
can;;,fires At night. Notes from
students journals provide one
of the most penetrating exami-
nations available of the prob-
lems of urban teaching. As a
psychologist with a community
mental health agency, Belenky
encourages youth workers,'
'junkies, mothers, and cops to
join together to lay plans for a
Learning Drop-In Center. In his
travels, he discovers a diversity
of human resources in the
"Saints and Saviors" who have
already been extraordinarily ef-
fective in helping others make
something of their lives, He
quotes some of the ways these
te a c her s approach thinking
about social and personal prob-
lems-
Robert Belenky struggles with
his relationship to the philoso-
phic and psychological problems
of the disaffected. His underly-

tions. Chances are that some-
one will even review your offer-
ing. This discussion will sample
a few of the better recent addi-
tions to the bookstore shelves as
well as those which deserve to
gather dust.
James Herndon, author of the
best-selling, The Way Its Spoz-
ed To Be, has written another
outstanding diary of his school
experiences during the past ten
years. How To Survive In Your
4 Native Land, says the author,
"is mostly about kites and dogs
and lizards and salamanders
and magic and what people I
know or got to know did." It is
just that. But along the way,
he also makes some important
points about schools in our Na-
4 tive Land: schools that label
kids ("educably retarded," "ex-
ceptional," or "immature"), and
deal them like cards into groups
when there is no other gay of
coping with them or their prob-
lems; schools that divide chil-
dren into winner and loser cate-
gories-and are the only places
one can go to find out how to
be a winner. The purpose of
school says Herndon, like other
American institutions, is first to
perpetuate itself; only second-
arily to worry about being a
place to learn. School is the
"closest thing we have in Am-
erica to a national established
church. Getting an Education is
the closest thing to God."
Herndon's style sweeps along
like a movie camera with a zoom
lens, scanning the horizon, cat-
ching a close-up here and there.
The reader stands with him in
the classroom, the faculty room,
TODAY'S WRITER .
Ellen Pechman, who has
spent several years schoolmar-
ming in an open clasroom, is
currently a graduate student
is the education department..

ever, the CA classes become cha-
otic expressions of pent-up con-
fusion, anxiety and resentment.
Angrily, Herndon speculates
about what kind of school sys-
tem can produce eight-year ve-
terans who have no idea what
is of interest and importance to
them-and who have no way to
find out what is.
Jim Herndon is committed to
making the world livable for
himself and his students. When
he is not satisfied with his own
approach to teaching, he looks
to his classes for alternatives,
recognizing a difficult and
great truth: "I had hoped the
kids would show me how to
teach . . . but, by the end of
that year, it was clear that the
kids did not know either . . we
were both waiting around. He
continues to question, however,
because he knows one's "survi-
val is based upon an individual's
ability to search for and finally
do what he believes is right."
How To Survive In Your Native
Land shares some of the right
things Herndon has found for
himself.
Robert Belenky's Fragments
Of A Lesson Plan is another
inspiring report. He goes beyond
the school into the community,
on the principle that people
must have opportunities to "act
on their own ideas and do some-
thing elegant on their own be-
half."' Poetic, profound frag-
ments document Belenky's ex-
periences with people and groups
he meets in the course of his
work. Portions of letters, tape-
recorded transcripts, memos of
meetings, and student and col-
league diaries are interspersed
with Belenky's own journal
notes and observations. Togeth-
er, the fragments give us a glo-
bal picture of problems of ra-
cial strife, internal dissension,
erosion of spirit, and sheer fa-°
tigne that accompany neighbor-

this book is not new, parts of
it having appeared during the
past five years in the New Re-
public. The section on the Bri-
tish schools is particularly well
known, because it was import-
ant in stimulating American in-
terest in the British concepts of
the open classroom and the in-
tegrated d a y. Featherstone's
work still stands as a highly
readable introduction to contro-
versial educational issues, es-
pecially for those not already
familiar with more up-
dated writings of Charles Sil-
berman, John Holt, and others
on the same subject.
The first section of Schools
Where Children Learn describes
the teaching methods used in
selected British infant, primary,
and junior schools. Featherstone
reports a number of imagina-
tive teaching techniques and
curriculum developments in
some detail, emphasizing that
these innovations have been ini-
tiated and carried out without
unnecessary baggage of elabor-
ate theoretical designs, excessive
expenditures, or costly equip-
ment. Teachers put together the
programs in specific response to
the needs of their children in
school and modify them as the
occasion requires. So precise are
Featherstone's accounts, that
they could well serve as blue-
prints for action by teachers
who would like to incorporate
open classroom techniques into
their own schools this fall.
The second half of the book
discusses recent innovations in
American education. Feather-
stone investigates a number of
lesser known but successful lo-
cal programs: the Harlem Street
Academies, the "new . careers,"
centers which have cracked op-
en the teaching and health pro-
fesions for ghetto residents, two
Boston community preschools,
and the impressive work of Her-
bert Kohl, Kenneth Koch, and
Elwyn Richardson in the areas
of children's writing and art.
Featherstone levies a stern
indictment against the expand-
ing "ed biz". Leaning heavily on
Marks and Qettinger's outstand-
ing criticism of technology in
American education, Run Com-
puter Run, he blasts the behav-
iorists, modelers, and techno-
crats who are flooding the edu-
cational markets with experi-
mental programs which utilize
ever more complex mechanical
hardware. He believes that in-

stead of ineb sn a constructive
contribution, the ed biz people
have created unmanageable and
outrageously expensive tools that
are limited in scope and flexi-
bility. Children who are using
learning devices on a regular or
experimental basis are forced to
fit the molds of the program de-
signs, much as they were forced
to fit the molds of the tradition-
al school settings.
Though Featherstone's book
is not especially novel, it is a
fine critique of American edu-
cational issues and as such will
be useful to those who work with
- or care about - children and
schools.
While authors such as Hern-
don, Beleniky, and Featherstone
strive to clarify the murky seas
of educational mediocrity, other
far less valuable literature has
been muddying the waters. Wad-
Ja-Geti The Grading Game In
American Education, for exam-
ple, is a weak effort to examine
the grading controversy. Three
professors of education-How-
ard Kirschenbaum, Rodney Na-
pier, and Sidney Simon have
compiled a survey of issues sur-
rounding The Grading Problem.
In a book they loosely call a
novel, the authors attempt to
answer the question: "Is the
traditional system of grading
the most educationally useful
system of evaluation?" Their
hope is that using a "novel"
form, they can bring alive the
great grading debate. While this
idea is interesting, it is blunder-
'ingly executed. Instead of an in-
telligent appraisal of the dam-
age grading does to students,
teachers, and the learning pro-
cess, the authors have insulted
us with a simple-minded, dread-
fully written, old-fashioned par-
Photos .. .
Today's photos were selected
from Sumnimerhill USA by Rich-
ard F. Bull
able. Every character in the book
is a badly-drawn stereotype of
a 1954 student or teacher, dress-
ed in pseudo-1970 vocabularly.
The "kids" are goodie-goodies;
the dialogue is studded with
poorly updated Sandra Dee and
Pat Boone slang. The discussion
of the issues is forced and un-
stimulating. Is this the calibre
of writing and thinking that
See SUNSHINE, Page 14

ing optimism, that change will
ultimately be brought by those
who feel strongly for people and
who have a commitment to com-
mon concerns, pervades the
book.
Schools Where Children Learn
is a compilation of articles about
educational innovation in Bri-
tish and American schools by
New Republic's Joseph Feather-
stone. Most of the material in

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