Book Review

The Flat World and Education

How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future

by Linda Darling-Hammond, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2010, 394 pp., $21.95 softcover

Linda Darling-Hammond, the Charles Ducommon professor of education at Stanford University and co-director of the School Redesign Network, is one of education’s most powerful and provocative voices. In The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, she beseeches those who care about education to wake up to the reality we truly are a “nation at risk.”

She does this as a friend and colleague without the inflammatory hyperbole contained in the landmark 1983 Reagan Administration report by that name. And because she speaks to us with measured tones, and shares careful, fair-minded research, we should listen carefully and act on her advice.

This book is her magnum opus. Darling-Hammond gives us the synthesis of her own rich body of research, distilled with that of the work of education’s other top researchers.

What makes this book so powerful are the necessary significant and systematic policy changes and detailed road map, which could lead to education excellence and equity for all children in today’s “flat world.” We see what states have been able to get their policies right (she points to Connecticut, New Jersey and North Carolina). We also see the sad specter of a state that once was on the right course, prior to Proposition 13. California, Darling-Hammond says, now is woefully unable to serve all its students in any semblance approaching equity or excellence.

In the last two chapters titled “Organizing for Success: From Inequality to Equality” and “Policy for Quality and Equality: Toward Genuine School Reform,” Darling-Hammond identifies the policies and the practices that could turn the tide from educational mediocrity to educational excellence for all if we only had the will.

Reviewed by Perry Berkowitz, associate professor and chair, education leadership and counseling programs, College of Saint Rose, Albany, N.Y.