The Red Pencil Convictions from Experience in Education Theodore R. Sizer

Publication date:
28 Sep 2005
Yale University Press
160 pages:


A prominent educator draws on experiences from his life and illustrious career to offer an impassioned critique of American schools—and the current central government assertion of authority over what had long been a local and regional concern

This engaging and important book is a critique of American education wrapped in a memoir. Drawing on his fifty years as teacher, principal, researcher, professor, and dean, Theodore R. Sizer identifies three crucial areas in which policy discussion about public education has been dangerously silent. He argues that we must break that silence and rethink how to educate our youth.

Sizer discusses our failure to differentiate between teaching and learning, noting that formal schooling must adapt to and confront the powerful influences found outside traditional classrooms. He examines the practical as well as philosophical necessity for sharing policy-making authority among families, schools, and centralized governments. And he denounces our fetish with order, our belief that the familiar routines that have existed for generations are the only way to bring learning to children. Sizer provides alternatives to these failed routines—guidelines for creating a new educational system that would, among other things, break with wasteful traditional practice, utilize agencies and arrangements beyond the school building, and design each child’s educational program around his or her particular needs and potential.

Theodore R. Sizer is the founder and chairman emeritus of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national network of schools and centers engaged in restructuring and redesigning schools. University Professor Emeritus at Brown University and Visiting Professor of Education at Harvard University and Brandeis University, he is the author of many books, including Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School.

?Ted Sizer is a national treasure, one of the few giants in education in the past half century. This book is a gift to educators?an extraordinary combination of memoir and meditation on the history and promise of schooling. I loved reading it because Sizer challenged, educated, and delighted me, a rare triad. This is must reading for all who work in or care about schools in America.??Arthur E. Levine, President and Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University   

"A forceful, hard-hitting, and sensibly-directed critique of American schooling, one that also sets forth a convincing plan for reform that policy-makers, parents, and general readers need to consider."?Gerald Graff, author of Clueless in Academe

?It?s always a treat to read whatever might be on legendary school reformer Ted Sizer?s mind, and The Red Pencil is no exception.??Rebecca Jones, American School Board Journal

?[Sizer?s] recollections . . . give excellent insights into flaws and possibilities of the [teaching] profession. . . . Highly recommended.??Choice

?If you?re looking for something to read about schools and learning . . . pick up a copy of The Red Pencil, by Theodore R. Sizer: simple title; clear ideas; nice writing.??Steven Drummond, Education Week

?A readable and poignant summing up by one of America?s noted educators; suitable for all public and academic collections that maintain holdings in education.??Library Journal

?Whenever Sizer writes about education, it?s worth paying attention. . . . The Red Pencil is a lively romp through contested educational terrain. . . . It is intended to be at once a memoir, a series of notes and observations about American education based on experience and a cri de coeur for change. . . . Aside from being an unusual book about schooling produced by a keen mind, it?s neither conveniently right nor left in a debate that usually breaks down, however simplistically and unproductively, along those lines.??Andrew J. Rotherham, New York Post

?Part memoir and part consolidation of lessons learned, The Red Pencil gives the reader a framework in which to place discordant thoughts and experiences that have been collected through the years.??Open Spaces

?Sizer?s problems and solutions will likely be familiar to concerned educators, his lucid arguments and his own experiences as a major figure in educational reform make this an enlightening book.??Publishers Weekly

"Elegantly written."?Richard J. Altenbaugh, The Historian