The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injustice

Fredrik deBoer. All Points, $28.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250200-372
DeBoer, an academic assessment manager at Brooklyn College, indicts America’s education system and the capitalist meritocracy it undergirds in this provocative yet muddled debut. Public schools don’t ensure equality of opportunity or outcomes, deBoer explains, because they reward the talented few and punish the less academically gifted. Yet genetic inheritance largely determines intelligence, deBoer contends, meaning that “different students have profoundly different levels of underlying ability.” Until educators acknowledge this range of cognitive potential and reframe classroom methods accordingly, he writes, Americans will be poorly served by reforms, such as charter schools and standardized testing, that blame teachers for student failure, and by the bipartisan consensus that education is the “great economic leveler.” DeBoer hedges against the risk of racial bias by insisting that he’s talking about “individual differences, not group differences” when it comes to intelligence levels, but his analysis of the supporting evidence is shallow, and his policy suggestions, including universal health care and free college, have more to do with “remak[ing] society from top to bottom” than fixing the specific problem of how to teach to varying cognitive abilities. Still, this passionate plea to reconsider “what it means to be a worthwhile person” gives policymakers and educators much to think about. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 04/27/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-250-75204-8
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