Over the past four years, Mike Rose has been visiting classrooms across the country and has been struck again and again by their intellectual and social richness and by what they suggest about education in a democracy. We are told continually by both entertainment and the news media that our students don't measure up, either to their predecessors in the United States or to their peers in other countries. Schools are depicted as mediocre or violent and chaotic places where students are raucous and teachers are not up to their jobs. As a result, increasing numbers of people don't even consider public schools as an option for their children, and more and more, we speak of the schools as being in decline. In Possible Lives, Rose shows us what really goes on in good classrooms: how teachers work, how students learn, what schools give to their neighborhoods.
Rose (Lives on the Boundary) spent four years crisscrossing the U.S. to sit in on public school classrooms in New York, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles, from the Mississippi Delta to Kentucky's coal district to the bicultural California city of Calexico on the Mexican border. In a hopeful journey through America's public school system, he emphasizes examples of inspired teaching, insight and connection, achievement against odds. The effective teachers whom he profiles through interviews, oral testimonies and reportage evinced solidarity with students' backgrounds, maintained high expectations and let students shape the direction of discussion; their classes demanded thought, participation, effort. Rose, who directs the UCLA writing program, sets these portraits of dynamic classrooms in the context of school-policy battles, community action and a legacy of systematic underfunding. Condemning the ``strange mix of apocalyptic vignettes'' that passes for public discussion about the state of American education, he offers a constructive and inspirational resource for anyone concerned about the health of public education. (Sept.)