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THE WORLD WE CREATED AT HAMILTON HIGH by Gerald Grant (Harvard University Press: $9.95)

September 24, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

A thoughtful meditation on the problems of secondary education in America during the latter 20th Century. The first section of the book, a fictionalized history of a composite "typical" high school between 1953 and 1985, reveals the effects the shifting mores of those troubled decades had on class structure, curriculum, teaching and discipline.

Gerald Grant's theory of education, which comprises the second half of the book, is more problematic. He argues that all education must have "a strong positive ethos" (i.e. a moral basis) but fails to resolve the thorny question of how to establish that ethos in a pluralistic and increasingly fragmented society. His call for community consensus as first step seems naive, if not unrealistic, at a time when the decline of the American educational system is the subject of widespread debate and controversies rage over teaching evolution, sex education, AIDS prevention, the importance of minority cultures and instruction in languages other than English.

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