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The Power of Their Ideas


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Deborah Meier is founder of the Central Park East Schools and the Mission Hill School in Boston. She has been a fellow at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and is vice chair emeritus of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Her many awards include a MacArthur Prize Fellowship. She is also the author of In Schools We Trust.


An educational reformer, teacher and veteran school principal, Meier has led the movement to restructure large high schools into small, vibrant educational enclaves‘schools within a school, housed within the same building. In a visionary, hopeful blueprint for revitalizing America's public schools, she first discusses her work as co-principal of Central Park East, an alternative public secondary school in East Harlem, New York, which she founded in 1974. Its students, mostly black and Hispanic, come from low-income families; 90% of them graduate high school, and 90% of those go on to college. Meier advocates small classes that encourage independent, critical thinking by using real-world exercises. Her blueprint for reform calls for enclave schools with autonomy over teaching; parents' right to choose the schools their children will attend; and student participation in socially useful, school-directed work experiences. 40,000 first printing; author tour. (Apr.)

Defending public education is difficult, but the best defense is by example, says Meier. As founder of the highly regarded Central Park East schools in Harlem, she has provided such examples‘and more. Throughout her account, Meier stresses the need for schools that develop human beings and citizens rather than skilled workers or educated academics. Privatization would open education to extremist influences and destroy these goals, she argues. Current problems in public education are caused by economic inequities, large and unwieldy school bureaucracies, and unrealistic demands for academic performance. Overall, Meier's account is an opinionated treatise relying less on research findings or published data than on experience and positive faith in its outcome. There is much good, persuasive writing here in support of traditional, progressive education. Recommended as a solid contribution to any education collection.‘Arla Lindgren, St. John's Univ., New York

The founder and principal of excellent small schools in East Harlem . . . Meier wants to make all students capable of participating in and sustaining a democracy. . . . Doubters must read Deborah Meier to take a look at that success up close, to watch it begin and grow and flourish. --Lorene Cary, The New York Times Book Review

"Meier pledges her faith 'in the extraordinary untapped capacities of all our children'; but, unlike so many radical reformers, she is also firmly rooted in the reality of the classroom. . . .What has propelled people like Meier from the periphery to the center of the ongoing school debate is the recognition that a new and different form of public school is no longer a luxury." --James Traub, The New Yorker "Written in prose that runs like a clear stream past the sludge of educational discourse. . . .The fate of public education today depends on whether we listen to . . . the Deborah Meiers of the land." --Joseph Featherstone, The Nation "A fiery manifesto of Meier's plan for the salvation of public education." --Los Angeles Times "A book not of blueprints and slogans, but of essays-reflective and analytical. The Power of Their Ideas is the product of a lively mind." --The Washington Post "Anyone who wants to get insight into the current waves of endless 'reform' debate should read it." --Philadelphia Inquirer "Meier documents her 30 years in schools. . . . She has captured the national imagination in a way that few public school teachers do." --Muriel Cohen, The Boston Globe "Destined to change the way we think about teaching and learning, schooling and education." --William Ayers, Rethinking Schools

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