Book review: In Defense of the American Teen

Verbatim review I left for this book on Amazon.com:

Most important thing I’ve read in years. This is a wonderful, thought-provoking book. But be warned, if you care about your kid’s education, it may make you angry. While I’m sure the title is designed to sell books, the subtitle is really what it’s about … a review of the deficiencies of the secondary schools in the US and recommendations on how to fix them. I might divide the messages of the book into two parts (1) for parents, giving guidance on how to deal with the inadequacies of the (mostly) public schools, and (2) for voters, who should demand a much better bang for our buck.

First and most importantly for parents … you think your kid could do better in school? Well, stop blaming him/her and READ THE FIRST 15 PAGES OF THIS BOOK. The author describes the basic problem: that curriculum is not individualized. His basic point is that if teenagers are allowed to follow their passions, within reason, they will gravitate to those things they will excel in. The author writes that we “are paying countless teachers between forty and a hundred thousand dollars a year to teach a subject that has almost no value to kids who have nothing but resentment at the prospect of being given that information”. He suggests that classes be mandatory if they are “deemed to be essential to adult life in America”. I don’t know about you, but reading “The Iliad” did nothing for me but make me hate reading.

Second, for the sake of the future of this country’s ability to compete globally, we need to improve our educational system. This is the first time I’ve seen someone in the education establishment really look at MANY of the fundamental problems with our system. Here, he covers teacher development, lack of accountability, grading, homework, testing, cheating, funding and more. I related to nearly everything he said, and laughed a little, besides.

Finally, a plea to the author … find a way to make the first 15 pages of this book widely available … via a blog, user forums, magazine article, whatever. Parents NEED to read these pages. If they do, I believe they’ll want to read more. They’ll stop putting all the blame on their kids for their academic problems, and push the schools to serve the students, not the inertia-laden academic establishment, which seems to think that better funding of the same old techniques is the answer.

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One thought on “Book review: In Defense of the American Teen

  1. Jim,
    Thanks for your kinds words regarding my book “In Defense of the American Teen,” and your comments were insightful and helpful.
    If you ever think the discussion is worth a cup of coffee, I’d be glad to treat to hear some ideas regarding getting the book around. I noticed you have experience with marketing, and I have none. If you have some thoughts on my next move… I’d love to hear them over coffee some time.
    Thanks tons.
    Ryan Teves

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