On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2003
Carolyn Moser, a North Carolina teacher, reviews Bracey’s book about the “trap” of No Child Left Behind and the stressful environment of today’s schools. But, says Moser, the book is not as gloomy as the title sounds and Bracey calls on teachers and administrators to the ones to change the perception of public schools.
Citation: Bracey, G.W. (2003). On the death of childhood and the destruction of public schools. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
by Gerald W. Bracey
2003 (196 pages/paperback)
Reviewed by Carolyn Moser
Leesville Road Middle School
Raleigh, North Carolina
The title of this book gives a very bleak first impression. Many people might put the book back on the shelf rather than subject themselves to so much negativity about our current direction in education. In the 25 short chapters in the book, most of the pertinent topics in education are covered and systematically taken apart. In short, Mr. Bracey takes the current educational trends and shows with data the "folly of today's education policies and practices."
The first chapter in the book is devoted to No Child Left Behind. Bracey refers to this law as a "trap" for our schools. After reading this chapter, most people will find little of redeeming value in the law. Bracey believes NCLB is destined to destroy the institution of public education forever. In his opinion this is the underlying intent of the law. The catchy NCLB title only serves to persuade and encourage support from people who really do not understand the consequences of the complex federal legislation. Who would ever be against any policy that would promise, "no child would be left behind"? According to Bracey, this is all part of a "big plan" to disguise a process that will lead to the total destruction of public education, as we know it today. Bracey encourages everyone to join together to oppose this law and say "NO" before this devastation becomes reality.
Another topic that Bracey writes about at length is the highly stressful atmosphere that our educational system is imposing upon our children. With the constant assessment, testing, and scrutinizing of children we do in our public schools, Bracey feels that we are denying children the opportunity to be young and carefree — ready to embrace life with joy and enthusiasm. Instead of preparing children for the world of work at age 6 and beyond, he says, we should be encouraging them to play and develop their creativity.
Bracey challenges the accuracy of test results reported to the public and says they paint a much gloomier picture than actually exists. According to Bracey, today's students are really performing at a much higher level than ever before. In response to these "false" results, he says, we continue to make school more regimented and boring in order to cover more and more of an ever-expanding curriculum. The result is a population of children who dislike school and find it dull and uninteresting. Bracey discredits the widely accepted idea that American students are far behind other nations in academic achievement. In his opinion, most of this educational propaganda is aimed at pulling our schools and children into the gutter and laying the groundwork for vouchers and school privatization.
One very refreshing opinion expressed in the book is the belief that teachers and administrators are the people who will have to turn the tide if the image of our public school system is to be salvaged. Only educators can shift the opinions of the public and build support to change the practices and policies that he believes are destined to bring failure and destruction to schools and our children.