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Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality: A Review

Posted: 2010-01-08

This book review is from Education Review [pdf file]

January 8, 2010

Whether it involved the SAT, NAEP, PISA, PIRILS, or Arne Duncanâs latest mendacity, Jerry Bracey was famous for checking the facts. "Not really. Look it up,â he'd tell people on EDDRA (Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency), the discussion list he founded and ruled over with strong opinions and dedication to empirical proof. He had no tolerance for loosey-goosey claims that could not be substantiated by facts. And then he'd e-mail the long list of reporters in his e-mail directory, asking why they didn't try looking up a few facts. No question: when a new study came out Jerry was our go-to guy. We knew he'd tell us if it delivered the goods. Or not.

The appearance of a new book by Gerald W. Bracey is always a treat, and I felt honored to be able to review Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality. That's what I was doing in October 2009 when he left us so unexpectedly. And then, knowing there would be no other books, I couldn't come to grips with talking about this one. But now I'm ready to give it a try.

On June 22, at 8:36 p.m.âLeft Coast (as he liked to call his new time, Jerry wrote to EDDRA, "On page 183 of my new book, Education Hell: Rhetoric vs Reality: Transforming the Fire Consuming America's Schools, (hint, hint) I quote one of Dewey's most famous and, I think, accurate, pronouncements: "Democracy must be reborn with each generation and education is its midwife." Through the years, Gerald Bracey, in his stalwart defense of public schools, has stood at the side of the midwife, always aware of what is at stake and ready to render aid when needed. Here's how he put it on the welcoming page to the EDDRA website:

Welcome to the Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency (EDDRA). EDDRA is dedicated to analyzing reports, dispelling rumors, rebutting lies about public education in the United States. It represents an on-line version of the work I have been doing since 1991.

And in Education Hell: Rhetoric vs Reality, he continues this work, remarking that he can't decide whether we're living in Orwell's world or Lewis Carroll's but whatever the case may be, it's a world turned upside-down. He declares that "When teachers are forced, against their better judgment, to focus on teaching test content to the exclusion of almost everything else, I can only conclude that the high-stakes testing movement nourishes totalitarian regimes." . . .

For the rest of this review and for information on contributing to the Bracey Memorial Fellowship, go here [pdf file]

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