Cheri Pierson Yecke, Praeger Publishers
Cheri Pierson Yecke, Minnesota's gutsy and embattled education commissioner, authored this superb new book, which expertly fingers - and analyzes and explains - two major perpetrators of the theft of excellence from American K-12 education over the past several decades: the "middle school movement" as it has evolved, and the education system's inattention-morphing-into-hostility toward the distinctive needs of gifted/talented youngsters, PARTICULARLY in the middle schools. As is normally the case, both problems began as well-meaning impulses. The middle school was an effort to do right by early-adolescent youngsters by placing them in educational environments that would be sensitive to their developmental and social needs and (in contrast to traditional junior high-schools) would focus on "teaching the child, not the subject." Neglect of giftedness arose from our obsession with equality, a concern that special treatment of uncommonly able kids is elitist, and the view that resources should be concentrated on youngsters who need to catch up rather than those who are already doing okay in school. As with so many good intentions, however, these went badly awry and turned into a profound anti-intellectualism that is undoubtedly a major cause both of the well-known fall-off in U.S. pupil achievement after fourth grade and of our spotty record in nurturing tomorrow's leaders, particularly those from less-than-privileged circumstances. (The well-to-do's capacity to purchase better schooling for their children includes myriad opportunities to hone and enrich the minds of uncommonly bright youngsters living in their homes.) You should definitely read this book, which can be termed a bargain (despite its hard-back price tag) because it tackles TWO big education problems while clearly showing the links between them. The ISBN is 0275981169 and more information can be found at www.waragainstexcellence.com.