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Why School by Mike Rose

Why School: Reclaiming Education for All of Us by Mike Rose was a follow-up read to his earlier book Lives on the Boundaries. The latter book explored, in an autobiographical way, Mike Rose’s ascent from growing up in a working class neighbourhood with little support for education at home. He found support from educators along the way and became an educator himself. Professor Rose used a similar biographical method in the current book and explored the purpose of education, different views of intelligence, learning, and knowledge, and the humbling, yet hopeful work, that results from learning.

The general thesis examined a need for a new conversation about the role of public education, one “not dominated by a language of test scores and competitiveness” (p. 4). Professor Rose presented a case for a good education being designed to help us make sense of the world. He argued that parents historically “sent their kids to school for many reasons: intellectual, social, civic, ethical, and aesthetic. Historically, these justifications for schooling have held more importance. Not today” (p. 4). If these reasons no longer hold a time-honoured place in educating our children, then it begs, “What is the purpose of school?”

Questions: What purpose does school serve in a democratic society? I find the object of school reform is not to change school or its purpose, but to simply layer one more fad on an already overloaded system which is ill-equipped to handle it. The result is we are failing many, serving few, and leaving a huge hole in the middle. What should school reformation or transformation look like? I believe this requires a conversation about purpose of school and its structure. Is the present hierarchical, industrial-age model a suitable mechanism to deliver education in the early 21st Century?

Recommendation: I enjoyed the book. It is short and easy to read. Professor Rose provides a view which is different from the mainstream educational reformer and challenges the reader with questions and not answers. I would recommend it to anyone searching for a different view of educational reform.

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