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Notable books

Notable Books | Four books on education reviewed by Susan Olasky

The Leader in Me

Covey explains how educators have adapted his seven habits for effective leadership for use in schools. His "face" is the A.B. Combs charter school in Raleigh, N.C., where the principal led her school to establish the seven habits as the "basis for the school culture." The habits aren't used as an add-on but "permeate everything." Covey's writing doesn't sing, but he's methodical and lays out clearly the steps schools need to take if they are to revamp successfully their missions. He doesn't operate from a Christian worldview-he says, for instance, that all young children are good-but many of his principles are sound, and apparently effective in fostering an atmosphere conducive to learning.

A Mathematician's Lament

This extended essay is a delight to read. Lockhart aims his slashing prose at the sorry state of math education before moving on to offer a taste of the joy of math-which is a bit of a shock to those of us who thought math was memorizing formulas. He begins with a thought experiment: What if music were taught the same way math is, where kids devote years to theory without ever singing? Math, he says, "is wondering, playing, amusing yourself with imagination." It's the "music of reason." Not so geometry as it is taught: "Other math classes may hide the beautiful bird, or put it in a cage, but in geometry class it is openly and cruelly tortured."

Acceptance

Reporter David Marcus spent a year at Oyster Bay High on Long Island, N.Y., shadowing a counselor known for his success in getting kids into great colleges. He sat in on Gwyeth Smith's college essay writing class and interviewed/shadowed seven of his students as they went through their senior year. Smith believes that a college essay should help students discover important things about themselves rather than pitching what they believe admissions officers want to hear. Watching the kids struggle to overcome tragedies, discover what they want, and decide where they'll be successful makes for fascinating reading and also provides some good advice for students about to go through the process.

Schools As Communities

This book is a collection of academic essays written largely by professors of education at Christian colleges. Some of the essays are top-notch and deal with important issues, both theological and organizational, in a style easily accessible to the layman. Others are more academic and are probably aimed at other profs. The essays identify struggles over mission, vision, finances, structure, and risk-taking that confront all Christian school communities. Written from a variety of approaches and perspectives, this book should challenge school administrators to find ways to improve their schools, and help some find solutions.

Spotlight

Susan Wise Bauer's four-volume series, The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child (Peace Hill Press, 2005-2007), provides a thorough overview of world history for elementary-school-aged children. Bauer packs the short, manageable chapters with information-but not so much as to overwhelm young readers. The series does not specifically focus on a Christian approach to history, but the books treat the Bible as an important source of historical information; for example, Nebuchadnezzar's madness plays as prominent a role as Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon.

Bauer does not skirt the sometimes unpleasant facts of history. For instance, her chapter on the Crusades presents examples of both Islamic and Christian aggression in a fair-minded way. Overall, she leaves editorial comments aside and focuses on story-telling, thereby laying a solid foundation for the budding historian. Students who finish this series can move on to Bauer's recently published History of the Ancient World for adult readers-with more volumes to come.

-Henry Bleattler is a professor in New York City

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