Book Review: The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide of Mediocity in America's Middle Schools
Cheri Pierson Yecke
Publication Date: 2004-03-22
It's scary to think that this book's author is the commissioner of education in Minnesota, formerly holding the top post in Virginia.
[A]continuing cry for social aims makes it appear doubtful whether the contemporary middle school movement and the standards movement can successfully co-exist. Interestingly, many of the most vocal supporters of a dumbed-down middle school curriculum, cooperative learning, and peer tutoring are also among the most vocal opponents of standards and accountability.
Yecke, former director of gifted education in Wisconsin and former Director of Teacher Quality and Public School Choice, U. S. Department of Education, devotes a large part of the book attacking middle school educators for caring about such principles as developmental needs, social justice, equity -- rather than gifted education.
Yecke is given to proclamations such as this:
Traditional American values are given little emphasis in many of today's middle schools, a trend that has accelerated over time. . . . American values such as rewarding individual effort, honoring individual achievement, and promoting healthy competition have given way to a capricious smorgasbord of liberal ideas that undermine these traditional values in many schools.
That gives you an idea of her tone, her beliefs, and her writing style. Her statements defy the credibility of anyone who knows anything about what goes on in classrooms. To pit the education of children in terms of traditional values versus capricious liberal ideas is a gross injustice to the work of thousands of teachers. Reading this is tough on the reader's bloodpressure.
Yecke examined the program of the 2001 National Middle School Association annual conference and found plenty to gripe about. I'm giving a keynote address and two workshops at the 2004 NMSA conference. I'll be sure to quote from her book. And count on it: I will denounce the standards and testing she worships.
FAIR USE NOTICE
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.