The following review was contributed by:
NORM GOLDMAN Editor of Bookpleasures.
In all probability, the topic of teaching and education elicits such an array of responses that we are sometimes at a loss to logically understand why the system very often contributes to apathetic and uninterested students.
Professor (Emeritus)Ira Jay Winn, author of The Education Mirage: How Teachers Succeed and Why the System Fails, deftly weaves together his thoughts, suggestions and solutions concerning the weaknesses that are prevalent within today’s educational institutions.
Winn emphasizes that one of the primary objectives of teaching must be the fostering of creative thinking. In fact, he dedicates his book to his former students who, he states, “hopefully, learned the art of critical thinking and came to expect nothing less than a civilized dialogue.”
The book divides itself into two parts, How Teachers Succeed and Why the System Fails.
Readers are constantly reminded that just regurgitating of facts is useless. You must emphasize problem-centered and inquiry-based teaching and learning, in order to stimulate and maintain the interest of students.
Drawing on his personal teaching experiences, Winn presents several alternative pedagogic techniques in order to present material in a way that will fuel the discovery process.
For example, what is the value of having students learn the names of Columbus’ three ships? As Winn states, they are dead- ended insofar as discussion goes. Would it not be more beneficial if facts were associated with definitional problems and value questions?
Instead of focusing on the names of Columbus’ three ships, why not ask the question, “what did Columbus hope to prove by sailing to the New World?”
Unfortunately, as pointed out, many teachers have not stopped to think about the important differences between questions of fact, definitional problems, and questions of value.
Winn displays a sharp eye in his analysis of what makes a good teacher, as he deals with the topics of lesson-strategy planning, discussion leading, when not to lecture, the use of case studies, testing and grading.
His solutions to fixing the problem are quite novel, particularly when he challenges the belief that high school must be an exclusively teen-age institution. According to Winn, “high school must be changed into adult common schools, common in the sense that they are open to all people regardless of age, so long as they have completed middle schooling.”
Other topics explored in the second half of the book deal with public policy, teacher training, the environment of reform, the school crisis as a crisis of culture, and a brief critique of Allan Bloom’s book, The Closing Of The American Mind.
By the end of the book, readers will well understand Winn’s preface to the opening chapters when he quotes a Chinese proverb, “I listen and I forget…I see and I remember… I do and I understand!” It is too bad many of my teachers did not heed this advice when I was a student, and why today teachers still do not get the message.
No doubt, Winn has written a splendid in-depth book in which every educator, and even non-educators will discover something novel.
For those who wish to further explore the book’s topics, a short bibliography is provided at the end of the book.