Book Review

Cheating Our Kids

by Joe Williams, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, N.Y., 2005. 264 pp. with index, $24.95 hardcover

When the first chapter of a book on public education is entitled “Children Last” and the final chapter is “Kids CAN Come First,” the reader can expect to find solutions in between. Indeed, author Joe Williams provides parents and the public a provocative analysis on how to return the focus of schools to preparing our children to succeed.

Williams, an education writer for New York City’s Daily News and a parent of two boys in the city’s public school system, wrote Cheating Our Kids: How Politics and Greed Ruin Education to show how our once-admired system of education in America has lost its way. We have become so consumed with meeting the demands of grown-ups that we have forgotten that schools should exist to serve the needs of children, he writes.

The author knows – and shows – how the education system has been captured by various groups including teachers and other school employees, politicians, unions, philanthropists, higher education institutions and vendors. Williams shows it is their interests and egos that are protected and advanced. But who speaks for the children?

Williams suggests that parents can take back the education system through a new brand of “hardball politics” that demands accountability, competence and choice, and that shifts power from bureaucrats and union leaders back to concerned parents.

His book concludes with a dozen practical steps to help parents accomplish that end. His advice includes such pointers as “if you don’t blow the whistle on school problems, no one will” and “fight for transparency throughout the system.”

Reviewed by Ann S. Keim, superintendent, Pequea Valley School District, Kinzers, Pa.