Book Review                                      Page 40


Finding Superman

Debating the Future of Public Education in America

edited by Watson Scott Swail, Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2012, 116 pp. with index, $24.95 softcover

Book Finding Superman

Bringing together a diverse group of educators, researchers and policymakers, Finding Superman: Debating the Future of Public Education in America boldly uncovers the salient questions and even suggests some viable answers on how to improve failing schools or, more appropriately, the perception that our whole educational system is in collapse.

Fiercely debated in this work are these topics: warring agendas between national and state regulation versus local control; the increasing influence of foundations and corporations; customization or standardization and the vilification of teachers. Contributors include Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Arthur Levine, Dan Domenech and John Merrow.

In general, the authors agree that the controversial 2011 documentary film “Waiting for Superman” brings urgency to these critical issues, while at the same time grossly oversimplifying the complexity of meaningful change in education. Levine argues in his essay that “after more than a quarter century of a reform movement, not one major urban school district has been successfully turned around.”

On the other hand, several contributors speak to the need to direct the conversation to the essential issue of what constitutes good teaching and learning, something the film does not explore. Cogent arguments are made by several authors on how technology can create a diverse approach to learning.

Swail, who edited this work, uses the Superman image as a valuable and compelling departure point to uncover how we can effectively make significant change in schooling without subjecting the hopes and dreams of students to the fate of a roll of the dice.

Reviewed by Janice Sandbank, superintendent, Brewster Central Schools, Brewster, N.Y.


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