Book Review

The Big Con in Education

by Dennis W. Redovitch, iUniverse, New York, NY, 2005, 159 pp., $15.95 softcover

Most of us have a good idea of what a con is. Author Dennis W. Redovitch defines its use in his book, The Big Con in Education, as “to deceive, misinform or lie for personal gain.” To make sure we get it, he also describes seven additional meanings of the word — all in his opening paragraph.

Redovitch, director of the Wisconsin-based Center for the Study of Jobs and Education, points out early on that public schools continue to be scapegoats for many problems facing the United States today. He sees the passage of NCLB as a manufactured crisis pushed by those who aim to destroy public schooling.

Redovitch argues that high-stakes testing is hurting children at an early age by reducing opportunities for classroom success. He decries the rationale for high-stakes testing because minorities and working poor live in school districts with little access to the financial resources of their more affluent suburban neighbors. Thus these students are at a distinct disadvantage in meeting what Redovitch considers unrealistic demands of testing.

When NCLB supporters claim higher-level skills will prepare the current generation of students for the job market, Redovitch counters that only 5 percent of jobs might require higher skills in math, including algebra, and only 10 percent will require higher science skills. To support his position, the author uses two appendices to describe in detail job projections in the United States, particularly in Texas and Wisconsin.

The author also takes issue with those who claim NCLB will better prepare most of today’s students for future jobs. He claims most jobs will require short-term, on-the-job training with moderate experience and education.

Reviewed by William J. Leary, professor, Ross College of Education, Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.