Book Reviews

Top Ten Myths in Education: Fantasies Americans Love to Believe

by Larry E. Frase and William A. Streshly

Reviewed by Jack Lorts
Superintendent, Fossil School District, Fossil, Ore.

This may be one of those books you love to hate. Of the Top Ten Myths in Education that the authors address, every experienced educational leader will find among them some of the "old saws" he or she continues to believe in, as well as those absurdly objectionable. And some of us wonder how anybody could be so ignorant as to still believe in these notions.

With more than a half century of combined involvement in public education, authors Larry Frase and William Steshly, professors of educational administration at San Diego State University, have targeted myths they believe, if discarded, "could catapult America's public school performance far ahead of its nearest competition-for less money than we're currently spending."

Do you believe our public schools can do all things for all people, including feeding hungry kids a breakfast and a lunch each day? Or that the local control evidenced by school boards is an effective method for establishing policies to run our schools? Or that public schools should not teach values? Or that teacher evaluations by administrators actually work? Or that teacher unions have been good for teachers? Or that merit pay can't work?

These questions come from the myths the authors set about to refute. In each instance, they first propound the myth as they understand it ("school boards focus on what students should learn, data-driven decision making, long-range goals and the district's fiscal capabilities"). They then state what they see as the reality ("narrow single views, personal biases and petty politics ... that often drive school boards"). Finally, they offer their solution to the myth ("state legislatures should rewrite all education statutes to clearly ... distinguish between macro- and micromanagement").

This example reveals much about the authors' approach. They do a fine job of illustrating the myths, but their solutions are often unrealistic. However, the book does stimulate the reader's thinking on many educational issues.

(Top Ten Myths in Education: Fantasies Americans Love to Believe by Larry E. Frase and William A. Streshly, Scarecrow Press, 4720 Boston Way, Lanham, Md. 20706, 2000, 134 pp., $14.95 softcover)