cover image The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth Grade

The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool Through Eighth Grade

William J. Bennett. The Free Press, $30 (688pp) ISBN 978-0-684-83349-1

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Bennett (The Book of Virtues) and his colleagues (Finn, author of We Must Take Charge; Cribb, formerly of the U.S. Department of Education) offer American parents an impassioned and straight-shooting reference for educating their children. In prose free of academic rhetoric, the authors state: ""[I]f your school is inflicting a mediocre education on your child, the sooner you know about it the better."" They then present a ""yardstick"" by which to judge the academic quality of any school (public or private). A model core curriculum organized by grade level--primary (K-3), intermediate (4-6), and junior high (7 and 8)--presents the material clearly and logically, and helps readers assess whether a child is getting a thorough dose of English, history and geography, the arts, math and science. While blunt in their criticism of decaying academic standards (evident in grade inflation, lowered expectations for students and terrible international rankings), the authors are unequivocal in their support of dedicated educators and all those willing to hold children to the highest possible standard. Parents may question some of the model curriculum's expectations (e.g., that second graders dramatize the death of Socrates), but the authors are quick to reassure readers that the book's purpose is not to serve as a list of must-haves but rather as ""inspiration and general guidance"" in gaining a sense of ""the knowledge and skills that should lie at the heart of a solid elementary education."" Bennett is a controversial figure because of his passionate cultural conservatism. But this book, despite a brief word in favor of school vouchers, is about padagogy, not politics. It's an ambitious and commonsensical guide that will inspire both parents and educators. 100,000 first printing; 25-city radio satellite tour. (Nov.)