Book Review

The Dismantling of Public Education and How to Stop It

By Elaine B. Johnson

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

Public education in America is a matter of intense debate with many critics contending schools be run more like businesses and be forced to operate autonomously and compete for customers. Some suggest applying the worst practices of American business management.

Elaine B. Johnson, executive director of MBM Associates and a former high school teacher, argues that the business model fails public education. In The Dismantling of Public Education and How to Stop It, she points alternatively to science as a foundation for innovation.

Johnson shows that science offers a more reliable and positive guide than the corporate business model. The application of scientific principles such as interrelatedness, self-organization and differentiation to leadership and teaching can transform schools into places that improve student performance.

Can quantitative measurement, a basic tenet of the business model, by itself be the only measure of success? Does the scientific model ignore the value of relationships when applied to schools? These questions form the core of Johnson’s work.

To be fully human, she writes, young people must acquire more in school than academic information or business realities. They also must acquire the deep knowledge they are inextricably linked to one another and the earth itself.

(The Dismantling of Public Education and How to Stop It by Elaine B. Johnson, Scarecrow Education, Lanham, Md., 2003, 140 pp. with index, $26.95 softcover. Log on to www.aasa.org to order. AASA members receive a 20 percent discount on Scarecrow titles.)