PositiveThe Washington Post... important ... Thrasher structures most chapters around a theme — the disastrous implications when White people believe they are immune from disease, for example, or unequal access to protection — accompanied by an anecdote or personal story. At times, the book feels like it’s suspended between memoir and public health tome. Nevertheless, the sometimes sprawling nature of the storytelling, and Thrasher’s liberal acknowledgment and incorporation of many of his friends and colleagues (as well as his past journalism and relationships), ultimately work in the service of one of his main points: that we are all more interconnected and reliant on one another than we always realize ... Yet I still wanted more depth in some places, and shorter detours in others to keep the focus on what is freshest and most revelatory. I could, for instance, have done without a lengthy recounting of the plot of the 2019 South Korean film Parasite, which takes up much of his chapter on capitalism ... Ultimately, this book is at its most searing when Thrasher shows, by the numbers and by the people, how various public health crises have compounded in America to create the viral underclass — and then, too often, to blame them for their own suffering. To that end, Thrasher’s recounting of Johnson’s and Borjas’s stories is particularly powerful. So are his examples of how various inequities and public health concerns have so often overlapped during covid — with devastating results.
Cristina de Stefano, tr. Gregory Conti
PositiveThe Washington Post... the first biography of Montessori written by a \'non-follower\' with no connection to the movement or its founder, according to De Stefano ... De Stefano doesn’t portray a saint who is consistently and exclusively devoted to serving the underserved ... Yet to her death, Montessori never abandoned her faith in the idea that all children, rich and poor, should be more valued, supported and empowered. And whether we embrace her educational methods or not, in that sense we should all be more Montessorian.
Michael S. Roth
MixedThe Washington PostInstitutions generally \'have hard choices,\' [Roth] writes, \'Devote more resources to bring in more low-income students? Or devote them to helping a smaller number of students truly flourish?\' ... Yet this seems like a false choice for the elite private institutions that Roth focuses on in the book ... He does not delve into the reasons institutions like Wesleyan can’t afford to do both ... The tradeoff described in the second and third parts of the book is more clear: how to stretch students’ comfort zones and understanding without shattering their sense of safety ... Roth’s historical approach is useful and instructive ... Roth is at his best at his most declarative ... I found other parts of this slim book, totaling 124 pages of text, sometimes ponderous, packed with rhetorical questions that at times felt meandering ... I craved additional examples. Taking readers inside more of these classrooms would not only make for interesting, illuminating reading but would help give us a road map for how colleges can work to protect the two core values—inclusion and provocation—that these days seem not only at odds but perilously at risk.
PositiveThe Washington PostGreenhouse clearly links strong unions to worker well-being. But his book is no paean to unions, which he holds partially responsible for the labor movement’s setbacks ... We certainly need a national movement around disenfranchised workers that, like education reform, has the potential to transcend party, class and generational lines. Beaten Down, Worked Up goes a long way toward explaining where the labor movement has been and where it needs to go. It’s an invaluable read for anyone interested in understanding one of the more shameful aspects of America’s status quo: the persistence of a working poor who, for the most part, work far harder than the rest of us yet live in a state of perpetual economic uncertainty, if not outright destitution.
MixedThe Washington PostThe book offers a readable recounting of the personal and professional back story that led to Duncan’s priorities as education secretary. It is not, however, likely to change many hearts or minds, let alone transform political foes into friends. Duncan cedes no political ground ... Some of the book’s shortest detours are among the most interesting. For instance, there’s Duncan’s visit to Columbus Elementary in New Mexico, many of whose students live in a nearby Mexican village with their parents ... I would have appreciated more such scenes: taking us inside schools and families confronting ordinary and extraordinary challenges in thoughtful, creative ways. I also wanted more context on the role of education secretary and whether Duncan conceived of the position differently from his predecessors or sought to transform it in a lasting way ... Duncan’s concern for children’s welfare comes through in his writing ... We have too little information about the longer-term effects of K-12 school reforms, at the local or national level, including their track record when it comes to getting kids not only to, but through, college ... There’s a persistent disconnect in How Schools Work between Duncan’s insistence on the importance of data-based reforms in education and his reliance on anecdote to illustrate many of his points.
MixedThe Washington PostGrit is a useful guide for parents or teachers looking for confirmation that passion and persistence matter, and for inspiring models of how to cultivate these important qualities. But there are some troubling unintended consequences to Duckworth’s theories...Moreover, in Grit, Duckworth dances around the question of poverty. She notes that young children who feel helpless in the face of significant trauma and adversity develop altered brain circuitry that makes it much more difficult to feel the degree of control and hope required for true grit. And she reports that scores on her Grit Scale were a full point lower on average for high school seniors who qualified for federally subsidized meals. Yet she doesn’t offer any solutions for this quandary...