Robert Whelan, ed.
U.S. concerns over the hijacking of public school curricula by anti-American progressives find a mirror in Britain, where ridiculous reforms have plundered from public schools both tradition and rigor--and left a radically leftist agenda in their place. So says a new compilation, edited by Robert Whelan, deputy director of the British think tank Civitas, in which six prominent essayists (scholars, mostly) address these problems. The reader doesn't know whether to cry or laugh while reading chapters such as "Geography Used to be About Maps," by Professor Alex Standish. Truth becomes farce. Standish, for example, describes a British education official who argued that the purpose of geography education was to "further ... the activities of the United Nations." Mathematics instruction in the UK has, according to this volume, become incoherent and plagued by goofy pedagogical theories, and the alleged need to situate scientific learning in the context of pressing social problems has deflated what was once a rigorous curriculum in biology, physics, and chemistry. The book's message suffers a bit, though, from inconsistency: one chapter laments that "critical thinking about ethnicity" rather than national solidarity was the curricular response to the July 7 terrorist attacks. But the very next chapter preaches how foreign-language education has done much good by "breaking down barriers between people and countries and promoting a sense of universalism in an individualised world." Nonetheless, the book is a welcome (albeit troubling) stare into America's curricular mirror across the Pond. Buy it here.