Fassett - Reviews Foz'natalti, P., and Ayres, B. (1998)....

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Unformatted text preview: Reviews Foz'natalti, P., and Ayres, B. (1998). All you need is love. New York: Simon & Schuster. 221 pp. $11.00 paper . It has often been said that music brings people together and that song is the universal language. In All You Need is Love, F ornatale and Ayres have compiled an extensive collection of well-known classic rock songs that illustrate a variety of lessons to be learned about life, particularly concerning the self and our interpersonal relationships. As an instructor of interpersonal communication, I was struck by the strong correlation between the content of the book and the material I cover in my classes. Upon reading All You Need is Love, I realized that it would be an ideal supplemental text for any undergraduate interpersonal communication class. I was also fairly certain that it would be well—received by my students, given the familiarity and popularity of most of the songs. Included are works by artists we hear regularly on classic rock radio stations, such as the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. In the beginning, the authors stress that the purpose of the book is to demonstrate that there is more to rock and roll songs than sex and drugs. In fact, they suggest that “there is a whole other dimension to this cultural phenomenon that has been a universal touchstone and common language for multiple generations the world over” (pp. 19—20). The authors have included 100 songs, each providing a unique life lesson. The reader will explore such topics as friendship, self-concept and self-esteem, trust, love and affection, death, relationship disintegration, personal change, misunderstandings, and conflict. In some cases, the lesson comes from the entire song or from a portion of the lyrics. In other cases, the lesson comes simply from the song title. The layout of this book is very reader~friendly. All of the song titles are listed in a table of contents with page numbers and are subsequently presented in alphabetical order by title for easy reference. Further, the reader will notice a consistency in format from song to song. In the two pages devoted to each song, the authors provide relevant background information as well as a discussion of the life lesson illustrated by the song. Then, in a section called “actions,” they provide suggestions for incorporating the lessons into our lives. Intermixed with these suggestions are questions for the reader to reflect on, which can also be used to generate class discussion. The authors mention that all of the songs they have chosen are available on compact disc. For ease in locating these songs, they include the titles of the compact discs on which the songs can be found. It is certainly beneficial to be able to listen to the songs when using the book. However, this may not be possible due to the cost of purchasing all of the music. Thankfully, the authors have designed the book so that it can be used without listening to the music. Therefore, All You Need is Love provides useful life lessons to both those who are familiar and unfamiliar with the songs. Anthony Will Whateom Community College Franklin, B. M. (Ed). (1998). When children don ’t learn: Student failure and the culture of teaching. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. 184 pp. $21.95 (paper). Reflect upon your educational experiences. What comes to mind? Particular grades? Favorite subjects or projects? In my own reflection, memories of my teachers, both positive and negative, reign supremezl still recall snippets of their eccentricities, some of their favorite jokes, even some of my grades. Their images, my memories, have served me well. Unbeknownst to them, they have helped me to find my own voice, to set and accomplish my goals, to aspire to be the kind(s) of teacher(s) they were (and, sometimes, were not). I remember them well. And yet, I wonder, how do they remember me? It. is the rare individual who refuses to acknowledge her or his teachers as significant to her or his developing identity. But, how often do we, especially when we are students, consider the effect we may have had-our presence or absence, our success or failure—upon our teachers? And, how often do we, if we have been fortunate enough to become teachers ourselves, give careful consideration to the effect our students have upon us? . . ' Barry Franklin’s edited collection of eight essays both inspires and responds these questions. Franklin is perhaps best known as an educational sociologist for his work tracmg the history of educational accommodations to lowachieving students; in fact, a condensed versxon of this research 13 Communication Education, Vol. 50, No. l,january_2(?01, pp. 83—90 Copyright 2001, National Communication Assocrauon 84—REVIEWS presented as an article, “Low-Achieving Children and Teacher Heroism,” in this collection. Franan organizes this collection around two key premises: First, educational failure is socially constructed. And, second, the social construction of educational failure influences both teachers’ and students’ on—going identity development. Franklin alludes to both premises when he writes in the introduction to the collection, “failure to learn represents a virtual assault on the very act of teaching and on the work of those whose identities are subsumed in that role” (p. 1). Such an observation suggests that understand- ings of success or failure, whether academic or otherwise, are unstable; teachers and students must look to each other to understand themselves. One might reasonably argue, even though the authors in this collection do not explicitly suggest this, that teachers’ and students’ identities are made and re-rnade in their communicative interactions with one another. Moreover, it is in and through communication that success and failure come to have any meaning for us at all. How such understandings develop is of particular importance to Franklin; he observes that the extant literature on educational failure “ignores the experience of failure and how confronting that experience structures and constructs one’s life” (p. 2). Thus, the essays in this volume represent a rich array of creative, qualitative inquiries into how the experience of failure shapes both teachers and students alike. Lynda Stone’s essay, “Language of Failure,” explores the ways in which everyday discursive practices influence the ways in which success and failure become normative. Other essays, including Richard Altenbaugh’s “Some Teachers are Ignorant: Teachers and Teaching Through Urban School—Leavers’ Eyes” and Peters, Kline & Shadwick’s “From Our Voices: Special Education and the ‘Alter-Eagle’ Problem,” approach the social construction of failure from the perspective of students. These essays, inspired by and comprised from in-depth interviews with students, illustrate the ways in which teachers’ pedagogical practices and expressed concern for students influence their choice to remain in school. Still other essays, including Hilty’s “The Professionally Challenged Teacher: Teachers Talk About School Failure” and Merrifield’s “Failure as Discrimination: One Professor’s Response to a College-Wide Examination of Proficiency in Writing,” explore the ways in which teachers revise their understandings of themselves as professionals in light of their students’ failure. The essays in this collection are characterized by a tension between agency and structure, between the efforts of the individual and the intractability of larger social systems of tradition and convention. Stone’s article traces the history of the dunce, the classroom failure, in order to illustrate her concerns about the ways in which discourse comes to shape understandings of success and failure. Influenced by her reading of Foucault, Stone suggests developing a field of “failurism”——in short, an archaeological study of how, historically, discursive practices have worked to connect classroom failure with personal shame (p. 18). As an example, she shows that the meaning of the dunce has changed over time, from its original connections to English philosopher and theologian Thomas Duns to the Dickensian sense of the dunce as a “blockhead, incapable of learning” (p. 16). Sensing such patterns leads Stone to pose the question: “To name or not to name? From what kind of ethic may a caring and committed educator work?” (p. 23). And, though it remains implicit in Stone’s article, there is a third question: Because we are always already enmeshed in discourse, can we choose not to name? Stone reminds her readers that careful attention to language use is the first step toward intervention in discursive practices. In his essay, Altenbaugh takes seriously such a charge, consciously choosing the term “school leaver” instead of the more ubiquitous “drop—out.” He notes that he does this not only to avoid the negative connotations associated with the term, but also to attribute a greater sense of agency (i.e., to attribute the possibility of sound reasoning) to students who leave school (p. 53). And, so, in the face of long-standing tradition, individuals attempt to make social systemic change; they attempt to exercise choice in a field of narrowly limited options. As Stone suggests, language is complex, enigmatic, and often taken for granted. That the problem of educational failure remains with us, despite our best efforts, is testimony to its discursive slipperiness. There is no universally agreed-upon understanding of “success” or “failure”; such understandings shift from person to person and from context to context. For example, Altenbaugh’s interviews with 100 “dropback” students (i.e., students who left school but later returned for their graduate equivalency diploma), demonstrate that whether a student experiences success in school is determined by whether he or she experiences caring relationships with teachersF or Peters, Klein and Shadwick, student success involves more than simply remaining in school; a student’s success depends upon image management and self-determination. Peters, Klein and Shadwick, concerned that students’ success may falter as they come to view themselves as a problem to be solved, interviewed 40 special education students. They conclude that the “problem” does not reside within the students, but rather within the discursive practices that help to create school culture, expectations and opportunities to learn. In exploring learning disability as social construction, Peters, Klein and Shadwick reconceptualize students with learning disabilities not as problems or victims, but as streetwise philosophers, image-makers, and jazz REVIEWS—85 improvisationalists. This shift, they note, highlights the ways in which student resilience is only partially academic; it is also a matter of self—concept and self—esteem. But, as the title of this collection suggests, teachers themselves are shaken when children don’t learn. Hilty’s essay challenges the old myth that “good teachers don’t fail.” She notes that such beliefs about success and failure pose a painful dilemma for teachers who teach in schools characterized by a high incidence of failure. Through a series of in-depth interviews with such teachers, Hilty distinguishes between two “subcultures” of teachers: those who feel challenged by the experience, and those who internalize their students’ failure and become hopeless (p. 92). Her findings support the notion that teachers re-define themselves as professionals in light of their students’ failure. Moreover, each teacher responds differently to the experience of failure. Perhaps the most significant implication of Hilty’s research involves its meaning for teacher educators: teachers must be taught how to cope with how their students’ experiences may influence their own professional self—esteem. Merrifield’s essay illustrates the process of how a teacher may re-define her or himself as the result of student failure. Merrifield, a composition instructor at a large urban university, discusses how her understandings of success and failure have changed since helping prepare students for a campus writing proficiency examination. She notes that failure might mean poor grades, but that such grades may mask discrimination. Merrifield also notes that satisfactory grades do not easily equate educational success; such grades, if they are the result of a student’s ability to merely meet the needs of the instructor, mask a lack of personally meaningful learning. In this essay, she reflects upon her own pedagogical methods and the fact that they seem to result in more success for some students than others. Merrifield’s essay is a rich example of an instructor continuously re—examining her individual pedagogical commitments in light of institutional constraints; it is a tale of compromise and circumvention. This edited volume has much to offer scholars who are interested in understanding and controlling educational failure. But, more significantly, this collection demonstrates the centrality of communication studies scholars to the discussion and implementation of educational reform. While the authors of this volume render a rich and complicated portrayal of educational failure and its effects, they do not mislead their readers with optimistic and simplistic solutions. For instance, DeLany’s essay, “The Micro-Politics of School, Teacher and Student Failure: Managing Turbulence,” challenges educators to reconsider “theoretical models that view power, position, and intention as so formative of outcomes.” His essay problematizes assumptions that hold students and teachers to be in control of educational outcomes. Yet it is important that the authors in this volume compellingly demonstrate that educational outcomes, such as success and failure (and, one might reasonably add, the promises and risks of either), are socially constructed. Such a perspective bears particular importance for communication scholars given that we are ideally poised not only to engage discussions regarding the communication needs of students who are at risk of educational failure but also the ways in which operative understandings of educational success and failure are constructed and construed. The final author in the collection, Harry Levin, argues that we must “shift a major part of the focus on failure to the need to transform entire schools, school districts, and state and national education systems” (p. 172). Levin envisions accelerated schools-schools democratically organized by students, teachers and parents—as a solution to the inevitability of educational failure. While this perhaps is too easy a conclusion for such a complex collection of essays, it does underscore that educational reform is too Herculean a task for one discipline or group of people. As communication scholars explore the social construction of educational outcomes, and the effects of that social construction upon attempts at educational reform, we will become a meaningful presence in the ongoing discussion. Deanna L. Fassett Southern Illinois~ University Christensen, C. M. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma: Men new technologies cause great firms to fizil. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 225 pp. $2 7.50 (cloth). The subject of innovation is one of the most heavily researched in thesocial sciences. It is surprising, then, to run across a really fresh take on it. Christensen’s work starts With the critical question of why organizations fail in the face of innovations in their central business-concems. This is an award‘w’inning book that increasingly is capturing the attentiOn of the popular busmess press. This work, while it does not explicitly address higher education, has enormous implications for us in this time of disruptive technological innovations (e.g., distance learning, web-based courses, more nimble private“ sector pfoviders, and so on). The quote from Andy Grove of Intel onthe cover sums it up quite nicely: Lucrd, analytical~and scary.” There is more than a little fatalism in this account, Since the book s central Copyright© 2003 EBSCO Publishing ...
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Fassett - Reviews Foz'natalti, P., and Ayres, B. (1998)....

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