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Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  20 reviews
For the past one hundred years, Americans have argued and worried about the quality of their schools. Some charged that students were not learning enough, while others complained that the schools were not furthering social progress. In Left Back, education historian Diane Ravitch describes this ongoing battle of ideas and explains why school reform has so often disappointe ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published August 7th 2001 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 29th 2000)
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William Lawrence
Everyone involved in education should read this book and it should be mandatory reading for all first year teachers in training. Ravitch traces the real roots of all of the fads and labels we hear today and puts the entire history of school reform in historical perspective. What this book does is reveal how little those who peddle reform ideas today really know about the people and ideas they celebrate. This book will have you thinking about how we ought to reform the schools of education.
Education is an incredibly complex topic that many don't understand. This book is an outstanding journey through the history of the last 150 years of education. It looks in depth at the battle between "progressives" and "traditionalists." This book is a must read for any educator and I would highly recommend it to any parent who has a child in or entering public education.
Crazy school reform has been around for a long time. (Remember Auntie Mame?) Every few years you read some article about the new school reform that's going to change everything. It turns out that these "new ideas" have been tried since the 1920s and 30s, and they have a history of not working. This book explains the history of school reform since about 1899.
I can never say too much about Ravitch. What I can say is this: She needs to read Larry Cuban's publication "How Teachers Taught" which was written BEFORE this, yet addresses so much of what Ravitch is missing. She only looks at how ideas were spread and the links between progressive education and how certain ideas were implemented. She fails to acknowledge racism altogether, and she also neglects addressing all the other factors that may have impacted implementation of progressive education. Ra ...more
Great history.
Dry, yet informative ....

Reread for work ....
Tricia Jennings
Borrowed this from my Dad. Didn't realize it would make me happier to be homeschooling...
Diane Ravitch's "Left Back" is a painstakingly thorough history of pedagogical trends in American public education. The book is, without question, a lot of work, but the careful reader will be rewarded with a much deeper understanding of the fascinating, infuriating, and often outrageous debates among pedagogical experts* and the ways that public schools have been affected by some of the most pivotal social, economic, and political changes of the 20th century (e.g., the great migration, the civi ...more
As a good work of history should, this book gave me the immense benefit of learning that:

1) The current struggles in education reform aren't that new - People have been arguing for two hundred years about how to educate in America. The debates through the centuries echo our debates today: child-directed vs. curriculum-driven, vocation-oriented vs. liberal arts-focused, controlled by parents vs. by "pedagogical experts" etc.

2) Every struggle has a historical context rather than exists in an abstr
Ugh! I FINALLY finished this! Diane Ravitch, I love you but you are a dry, dry writer.

So much to say about this book, though.

I think it should be required reading for every education reformer, everyone who thinks they have any idea about how they can 'fix' education. Before you have solutions or the answers, you need to take the long view of the problem--see it for how complicated it is, its historical context…..its humbling, and if there is anything that reformers/activists of all stripes need
I am going to say I finished this one even though I didn't read every word. I read the first few chapters about the huge early 19th century changes. This wasn't altogether new to me because I had read the works of several authors who were either contemporaries of the reformers and deplored the novelties (Charlotte Mason, Pope Pius XI, Robert Schwickerath would be some contemporaries; Cardinal Newman would be someone who saw the beginnings of the movement in Britain and Europe). Also, I had read ...more
Very thorough history of education in the United States. Very sad to see the cyclical decisions that continue to be made despite the obvious failures of the past.
Ravitch does an excellent job laying out the path of progressive education, as well as its many shortcomings. The book suffers a bit from not having a lot of data to back up the superiority of her prferred liberal education (even though I agree with her). I'm looking forward to reading her next book and seeing how her thinking has evolved.
Well researched, cited, and written. I found it gripping, and best of all, I have more perspective to continue reading about the various pedagogical movements within their historical context.
A well researched history of our public education system. Ms. Ravitch knows her subject and is quite thorough. Can public education be repaired? She seems to think so. I'm not so sure.
This book is a research review. The writing is dry and unengaging, but if you suffer through it there is a complete and thorough history of American schools to be learned.
Marjory Munson
This book makes you think about what money and hubris have been doing - and continue to do - with our children's education and future.
Laura Tortorelli
Write a review...Everyone who has children or plans to have them or who teaches should read this book.
Benny Boo
Sep 22, 2007 Benny Boo rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Ugh! I am reading this for one of my classes. If you have insomnia this is the tome for you!
Wayne Stone
education - 100 years of social experimentation - and more to come
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