The Children’s Crusade

DISCLOSURE: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Scribner, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

UnknownThe Children’s Crusade
Ann Packer
Published April 7, 2015
448 pages (hardcover)

Ugh. I’ve been in a big book slump for the past few weeks (hence the lack of posts/reviews). We’re nearing summer. Now should be the time for light-hearted fare, fast-paced fluff, and mindless entertainment.

Instead, I’ve been slogging through a 400-page depressing family saga that details the childhood dramas and traumas that lead to lifelong dysfunction. Thanks a lot, Ann Packer.

The Children’s Crusade is about a family of six, the Blairs: Continue reading

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsAll Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Jennifer Senior
Published January 28, 2014
320 pages (of which 48 pages are notes and index)

Once you hit a certain age, you are officially considered old. This age is different, of course, in different contexts. If you’re going to see a movie at an AMC theater, that age is 60. According to the Social Security Administration, that age is now 67. At Wendy’s, that age is 55 (you get 10% off your entire order every day. You’re welcome, old people!). And, if you’re a woman having a baby, that age is 35.

If you’re at least 35 and pregnant (as I am now), you are dubbed “AMA”—a woman of “advanced maternal age.” This actually shows up on my medical records as a diagnosis: elderly primigravida (“a woman who becomes pregnant for the first time after the age of 34.”). This diagnosis means extra doctors’ appointments with specialists for at-risk pregnancies.

It also means that I haven’t jumped into this child-bearing thing lightly. For my husband and me, deciding to have a baby was a big deal. We weighed our pros and cons. We crossed some things off our bucket lists that would be a little more difficult to accomplish with kids in tow. We envisioned life twenty years from now with kids versus without them. And we did some research—we casually interviewed some friends, read some books, and keenly observed the young families with whom we came into contact.

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The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League

peacebookThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League
Jeff Hobbs
Published September 23, 2014
416 pages (hardcover)

My husband jokes that, once a year, a good friend of mine and I participate in our “Annual Education Debate.” The arguments (and our respective positions) never change, but the discussion is impassioned. This friend and I were both Teach for America teachers in Baton Rouge. He taught at an inner-city middle school with a nearly 100% African-American population; I taught at a rural, minority-to-majority transfer elementary school (minority-to-majority transfer schools, or “M2Ms”, are better known as “bussing schools”–kids are bussed to far-flung schools in an effort to even out the effects of de facto segregation).

My position in this debate, always, is that Teach for America isn’t capable of “closing the achievement gap,”—ensuring educational equality for all—which is its laudable goal. It does not have the infrastructure, provide the support, or have sufficient resources to achieve this goal. The problem is just too big. As a Teach for America alum, this is a very controversial position to take (we Teach for America alums are known for drinking the Kool-Aid). But, in my mind, it’s realistic.

At this point (years removed), I am much more aware of my limitations and the limitations of other Teach for America teachers. I believe in kids, especially “my” kids (all of whom are in their twenties now, and many of whom I am still in touch with). My students experienced great gains and huge successes (measured by test scores, of course). But they were only with me for one year. No matter how much success they experienced in fifth grade, no matter how much their lives and attitudes changed, when they graduated elementary school, they moved on to middle school and all of its influences. They had to navigate the world of drugs, teen sex/pregnancy, gangs, poverty, bad neighborhoods, bad teachers, and a billion other negative influences. And, for some, that’s nearly impossible.

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