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Political Education

National Policy Comes of Age, The Updated Edition

by Christopher T. Cross, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2010, 193 pp., $60 hardcover, $28.95 softcover 

 Book Review: Political Education

If you did not read the original version of Political Education: National Policy Comes of Age published in 2003, this updated version is a “must read” for educators and those interested in learning how American public education is affected by the changing landscape of American politics, changing presidential administrations and competing political party perspectives.

Author Christopher Cross has been personally engaged and a front-row observer of most of the activities that have shaped the incursion of federal policy in American education. He does not present his review in a biased manner but serves the facts in an easy-to-read, story-telling approach. However, there are always different points of view so even in the foreword written by former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley and Ted Sanders, president emeritus of the Commission of the States, says: “While those of us who participated in shaping the federal role during the last 20 years many not always agree with the points that Cross makes, we believe this book makes an important contribution….”

Contrary to some books related to the development of historical policy making, the author makes this interesting by giving the background to the decision making without cluttering the stories and explanations with excessive details. He also names the players and brings their actions to life in a balanced manner.

Early in the book, Cross provides a “policy primer” to help the reader understand the legislative process through which education policy goes through followed by four pages that update the 2003 edition that address both the George W. Bush and Barak Obama administrations. The latter’s signature program, Race to the Top, receives a brief mention at the end of the book.

In many ways, the updated edition simply keeps the book up to date. But assuming you have been alert over the past few years and already own the original edition, you don’t need to buy the updated version. The photos added to the latest edition provide a nice touch so the players become more real as you can see them plying their political influence.

Reviewed by Philip E. Geiger, senior vice president and practice lead, MAXIMUS K-12 Education, Reston, Va.



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