Book review: Turning Points
Edited by Jerry Mintz and Carlo Ricci
Obtainable from the Alternative Education Resource Organisation, hardback $29.95 ISBN 978-0-9745252-5-9 http://www.educationrevolution.org
The clever idea for this book was to choose thirty-five people who stand for various alternative forms of education and ask these chosen ‘visionaries’ to answer four questions: What was your schooling like? When did you realise that there is a need for an alternative approach? What have you done since to help realize that vision? What are you doing now?
The editors did not ask for theories or definitions, they asked for facts. The result is thirty-five highly individual articles, all of them narratives rather than pronouncements. Almost all of them are interesting and some of them are inspiring.
The contributors include founders of alternative schools, teachers in traditional schools for all different ages, activists, authors, magazine editors and a photographer. Almost half of them are women. The book includes both support and criticism of Montessori education, calls for more opportunities for people of colour, memories of both successful and unsuccessful schooling and enthusiasm for home education, but the majority of the articles advocate giving children trust, responsibility and freedom in one way or another.
Whether the book will become important as well as stimulating will depend on its reception. It is a well-presented hardback, but its impact may be diminished by the fact that the only message common to all thirty-five different stories is that there is something wrong with traditional education. There may be too many answers to this problem for the book as a whole to carry much weight, but on the other hand perhaps the variety of answers will mean that everyone can find something to agree with. The fact that the authors reveal themselves as real personalities rather than merely mouthpieces for particular theories adds flavour to the theories when they are expressed.
The only disappointment is that, since it is an American book, nearly all the authors come from the USA. The article included in the present posting on the Lib Ed website is by a Mexican, one of the few exceptions. Canada, South Africa, Israel and the UK also have one entry each, but mainland Europe, Asia and Australasia are not represented. Perhaps people like Rebeca Wild from Ecuador, Keiko Okuchi, Shinichiro Hori and Kageki Asakura from Japan, Rajani Dhongchai from Thailand, Falko Peschel from Germany, Jürg Jegge from Switzerland and Amukta Mahapatra and Rita Panicker from India will provide the basis for another book.
(A sample contribution, Escaping Education by Gustavo Esteva, is included in the current posting on this site.)