Review of Those Who Dared: Five Visionaries Who Changed American Education
Those Who Dared: Five Visionaries
Who Changed American Education
Edited by Carl Glickman
Foreword by George Wood
Published by Teachers College Press,
November 2008, New York.: 141 pp.
I imagine that no matter what one’s profession or field happens to be, nearly everyone would agree that strong, inspiring, visionary leaders are essential in moving an organization forward, to something better.
Here, in one compact volume, are profiles of five educational leaders who have indeed contributed to the improvement of American public education.
As Carl Glickman acknowledges, “These leaders have a bold vision of the educated American student as a wise and engaged citizen rather than a competent test taker, and they have repeatedly shown the power of schools that engage in thoughtful and purposeful practice…[they] have dared to stand up to federal and state policy makers who wish to achieve school change from uniform, top-down mandates and single-test accountability requirements.”
Who are these gifted leaders? Deborah Meier, a McArthur Foundation Genius award winner who has dedicated her career to developing elementary and secondary schools to serve low-income African-American and Latino students; Harry Levin, a professor and scholar who has specialized in the relationship between the economics of education and human resources; James P. Comer, MD, who created the School Development Program, which works to schools’ culture so that students are motivated to learn; John Goodlad, a professor of education who has recently developed several organizations for education reform and research; and Theodore R. Sizer, a retired professor of education at Brown who founded the Coalition of Essential Schools, a nationwide association of reform-minded schools.
They acknowledge their failures, obstacles, and mistakes. Undaunted, these five educators have relished the struggle to make better schools, and experiences, for students.
As Deborah Meier writes, “The purpose of education happily is consistent with the struggle to create good schools—if we share that struggle with our staffs, families, and above all, the kids.”
Their individual career paths represent a truly dizzying spectrum of possibilities, from the classroom to the principal’s office, to academic appointments and authorship of seminal works. What unites their collective efforts is a passionate commitment and belief in the ultimate value of public schools, and the ability to renew them.
“Across all these five lives, the word democracy is writ large,” says George Wood, the executive director of The Forum for Education and Democracy. “Thus, the second lesson is that the heart of public education, its most crucial mission, is to develop in the young the habits of heart and mind that make democracy possible…these five have kept the flame of educating for democracy and citizenship alive.”
At this moment of new possibility for our nation, this is as good a time as any to explore this book, and apply its lessons to one’s own schools and communities. #