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Education Is Upside-Down: Reframing Reform to Focus on the Right Problems

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Education Is Upside-Down cuts through adjustments being made at technical levels of educational practice and accountability, challenging ideals and philosophies that have powered American Education for most of the last century. This book explains how and why long-standing approaches generate flawed instructional practices, flawed systemic reform efforts, and a fundamental Education Is Upside-Down cuts through adjustments being made at technical levels of educational practice and accountability, challenging ideals and philosophies that have powered American Education for most of the last century. This book explains how and why long-standing approaches generate flawed instructional practices, flawed systemic reform efforts, and a fundamental misalignment between the educational institution and the society it is missioned to serve. Education Is Upside-Down urges readers wishing to improve American Education to more carefully consider the institution's central mission, challenge long-accepted truths of practice, and question current reform efforts and actions. In full, Education Is Upside-Down resists the practitioner-vs.-reformer blame game, seeking ultimately to carefully untangle--not tighten by yanking on any single strand--the long-complicated knot of American Education. ENDORSEMENTS, FROM COVER: Eric Kalenze's book is a valuable contribution to the education reform conversation. He argues persuasively that America's public schools need to get back to their fundamental mission of preparing young people for success in society as it is--not for some utopian future in which self-actualization is all that matters. Here's hoping this dose of reality permeates the "thoughtworld" of our education system. (Michael J. Petrilli, president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute) In Education Is Upside Down, Eric Kalenze offers a provocative critique of today’s reform efforts. He argues that real transformation will require rethinking the larger purposes of education—that anything less will disappoint. This intriguing volume touches on educational philosophy, history, and some of the highlights of contemporary reform, while closing with a bracing call that we ask students themselves to share in the accountability we ask of educators. (Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute) Our earliest thinkers about public education saw schools as indispensable institutions, endowing America’s children with common knowledge, practical skills, civic dispositions and habits. We went to school to become Americans. Today, Eric Kalenze correctly observes, schools exist to provide the whole development of each individual child. The result is a kind of mission creep. We are doing too many things and none of them well. Current reform efforts are missing the mark badly, as did progressive education reform that preceded them. Kalenze’s wise book Education Is Upside Down describes how American education lost its way and its founding purpose—and how we might get them back. (Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow and vice president for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and senior academic advisor at Democracy Prep Public Schools) In this broad survey of education in America today, Eric Kalenze offers a refreshing diagnosis of what is wrong, why and when it happened, and what to do. He is equally adept at tracing the genesis of bad ideas 100 years back as he is at analyzing the heated debate over Common Core. The arguments are brisk, the prose limpid--an excellent primer for young educators looking to understand current conditions. (Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future)


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Education Is Upside-Down cuts through adjustments being made at technical levels of educational practice and accountability, challenging ideals and philosophies that have powered American Education for most of the last century. This book explains how and why long-standing approaches generate flawed instructional practices, flawed systemic reform efforts, and a fundamental Education Is Upside-Down cuts through adjustments being made at technical levels of educational practice and accountability, challenging ideals and philosophies that have powered American Education for most of the last century. This book explains how and why long-standing approaches generate flawed instructional practices, flawed systemic reform efforts, and a fundamental misalignment between the educational institution and the society it is missioned to serve. Education Is Upside-Down urges readers wishing to improve American Education to more carefully consider the institution's central mission, challenge long-accepted truths of practice, and question current reform efforts and actions. In full, Education Is Upside-Down resists the practitioner-vs.-reformer blame game, seeking ultimately to carefully untangle--not tighten by yanking on any single strand--the long-complicated knot of American Education. ENDORSEMENTS, FROM COVER: Eric Kalenze's book is a valuable contribution to the education reform conversation. He argues persuasively that America's public schools need to get back to their fundamental mission of preparing young people for success in society as it is--not for some utopian future in which self-actualization is all that matters. Here's hoping this dose of reality permeates the "thoughtworld" of our education system. (Michael J. Petrilli, president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute) In Education Is Upside Down, Eric Kalenze offers a provocative critique of today’s reform efforts. He argues that real transformation will require rethinking the larger purposes of education—that anything less will disappoint. This intriguing volume touches on educational philosophy, history, and some of the highlights of contemporary reform, while closing with a bracing call that we ask students themselves to share in the accountability we ask of educators. (Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute) Our earliest thinkers about public education saw schools as indispensable institutions, endowing America’s children with common knowledge, practical skills, civic dispositions and habits. We went to school to become Americans. Today, Eric Kalenze correctly observes, schools exist to provide the whole development of each individual child. The result is a kind of mission creep. We are doing too many things and none of them well. Current reform efforts are missing the mark badly, as did progressive education reform that preceded them. Kalenze’s wise book Education Is Upside Down describes how American education lost its way and its founding purpose—and how we might get them back. (Robert Pondiscio, senior fellow and vice president for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and senior academic advisor at Democracy Prep Public Schools) In this broad survey of education in America today, Eric Kalenze offers a refreshing diagnosis of what is wrong, why and when it happened, and what to do. He is equally adept at tracing the genesis of bad ideas 100 years back as he is at analyzing the heated debate over Common Core. The arguments are brisk, the prose limpid--an excellent primer for young educators looking to understand current conditions. (Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future)

48 review for Education Is Upside-Down: Reframing Reform to Focus on the Right Problems

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Anger

    Terrific overview of everything wrong with education and, most importantly, how to fix it. This is like the book I would have written if I hadn’t read it. It takes many of my disparate thoughts on education, collects them into one concise volume, organizes them, and states them beautifully. Should be read by all teachers, but especially those currently struggling and not knowing why.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    It was pretty good but now I can't read educational jargon the same way again It was pretty good but now I can't read educational jargon the same way again

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nadine

    Scholarly, comprehensive, realistic, unbiased. These are the first words which come to mind after reading. As a recently retired teacher who experienced the last 40 years of educational trends, I finally have the time to read and that in itself is a major problem for practicing educators who don't have the time to digest and reflect a work such as this. I wish I had this book and the time to read it when working to share sections with student teachers and concerned parents. Kalenze uses a unifyi Scholarly, comprehensive, realistic, unbiased. These are the first words which come to mind after reading. As a recently retired teacher who experienced the last 40 years of educational trends, I finally have the time to read and that in itself is a major problem for practicing educators who don't have the time to digest and reflect a work such as this. I wish I had this book and the time to read it when working to share sections with student teachers and concerned parents. Kalenze uses a unifying analogy of a funnel throughout, but at its use on page 114 is superb and I used it very successfully in trying to explain teacher frustration. This work is one I highly recommend but with one warning: it may be too daunting for a lay person with a low reading ability as its reading level and format is closer to doctoral dissertation. I received a copy for review from Goodreads First Reads program.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    I need to get this in the first line of my review: Every teacher, administrator, school board member, and education policy maker should be required to read this book. "American education," Eric Kalenze writes in Education Is Upside Down, "has made everything a priority, which, as the saying goes, makes nothing a priority." Mr. Kalenze makes it quite clear that the try-to-be-all-things-to-all-people approach is the fault of multiple parties - reformers who just want a cut of the hundreds of billio I need to get this in the first line of my review: Every teacher, administrator, school board member, and education policy maker should be required to read this book. "American education," Eric Kalenze writes in Education Is Upside Down, "has made everything a priority, which, as the saying goes, makes nothing a priority." Mr. Kalenze makes it quite clear that the try-to-be-all-things-to-all-people approach is the fault of multiple parties - reformers who just want a cut of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on K-12 education in the U.S., school boards and administrators who don't practice due diligence in investigating what research has to say about the unproven and expensive innovations pushed by Edtech companies, and, yes, even teachers who, in attempts to make their subjects engaging and relevant to students, eschew high standards. Almost no one involved in education in the U.S. comes off unscathed in this extensively researched account of the state of schooling (actually, unscathed is too strong a term. Mr. Kalenze’s voice is always firm, but he is charitable in gauging motives). Mr. Kalenze explains the philosophical foundation of current misguided pedagogy and points readers to the current scientific research on how people really learn in his prescription for rectifying the wrongs. His argument against the belief of some that schools need to be run like a business is the strongest, most convincing I've ever encountered. That chapter alone, Too Scattered to Matter, is worth the cost of the book. The story that Mr. Kalenze tells won't fit the narrative of those who say that there's really nothing wrong with our schools, nor the account of those who acknowledge there are problems with the academic performance of some groups of students but lay the blame squarely and solely on poverty. The persistence of achievement gaps between socio-economic groups, the middling performance of American students on international assessments, and the too-high percentage of students who leave school with literacy and numeracy deficits are all evidence that we do need to do a better job educating our children. And we can do a better job, if we follow Mr. Kalenze's advice. He contends that we need to focus on three key issues: teacher preparation, curriculum, and student expectations (and by that, he means what society should expect of young people as they pursue an education). While his prescriptions will be controversial to many, in my opinion they are not only practical but, in the long run, far more economical that the hop-on-the-latest-bandwagon approach American education has been following for decades. A final note to teachers: I get that many of you might, at first, find yourself recoiling at Mr. Kalenze's indictment of the current state of pedagogy in this country. Get the book and stick with it. Read his sources, at the very least those on the cognitive science of how we learn. If you consider yourself a "child-centered" teacher, I get it, I taught for 20 years and I was there once, too. Try to keep an open mind as Mr. Kalenze makes his argument that, by trying to make all education relevant to the child, we are depriving them of the opportunity to become truly fulfilled, independent adults who can fully partake in our institutions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Valerie

    Although I am new to the whole subject of education reform, Kalenze does a great job in explaining the various problems associated with current reforms. As a parent who has a child starting school soon, I wanted to find out more about what is going on inside the public school system (what's working, what's not), and Kalenze's book was an excellent jumping off point for me. It seems like most parents I run into have very little idea about the current reforms in our schools, and now I feel like I Although I am new to the whole subject of education reform, Kalenze does a great job in explaining the various problems associated with current reforms. As a parent who has a child starting school soon, I wanted to find out more about what is going on inside the public school system (what's working, what's not), and Kalenze's book was an excellent jumping off point for me. It seems like most parents I run into have very little idea about the current reforms in our schools, and now I feel like I can use some of the issues pointed out in this book to have a more thorough discussion with other parents who so wholeheartedly believe in some of the recent (yet still unproven to be effective) trends in education. I especially like how Kalenze points out that students in the US are not held as accountable for their education as children in other countries, and that most likely contributes to poor performance and apathetic learners. Most of the blame here falls on the educators, which leads to more reforms in how teachers teach and how they themselves are taught, yet it seems like no one looks to reform the behaviors and attitudes of the students. I recommend this book to all who are involved in education, and I am definitely going to recommend it to other parents that I know who want to know more about how our children are being taught, and things we can do if we desire to see a change in the system. There were some subjects that I didn't fully follow since I am new to learning about education reform, but Kalenze lists a lot of other references that delve deeper into the topics for those who want to learn more.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lori Butler

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sara

  8. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Muijs

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gale Morrison

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Aston

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bill Bauman

  12. 5 out of 5

    Greg Ashman

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alvaro

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine Lane

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Olechowski

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leszek

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kerri Peters

  18. 4 out of 5

    James Tucker

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    Olsonj669

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rita Endres

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bettina

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sue Kalenze

  25. 5 out of 5

    Claire

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rajvee

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Smith

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eznelak (Jamie)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  31. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kara Lauren

  33. 5 out of 5

    Donna Schubert

  34. 4 out of 5

    Erin

  35. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  36. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

  37. 4 out of 5

    Seanna Yeager

  38. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn Condenzio-Hall

  39. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  40. 4 out of 5

    Davia Taylor

  41. 4 out of 5

    Sweetpea

  42. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Cole Marie Mckinnon

  43. 5 out of 5

    Sindi Hinny

  44. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Pooser

  45. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  46. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  47. 4 out of 5

    Abby

  48. 4 out of 5

    Erica Carver

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