Thursday, November 16, 2006

education week

From the November issue of Education Week:
Disadvantaged Students
by Joe Miller (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,; 496 pp., $26 hardback).
Book cover: Cross-X

A journalist, Miller first visited Kansas City (Mo.) Central High School at the request of its student body president, who was frustrated by its negative reputation in the news media. He found an inner-city school in which 99 percent of the students are members of minority groups, less than 1 percent score at the proficient level, and only one-third graduate, but which also is home to a prize-winning debate team that routinely beats nationally known competitors. Miller shadowed the team through its 2002 season and ultimately became an assistant coach as his involvement deepened. In this book, he describes the black debaters, their dedicated white coach, and the obstacles they faced, such as poverty, foster care, and a lack of support from school administrators and in the greater debate community. The team not only challenged its circumstances, but also took on the modern style of debate (in which high-speed recitation of evidence dominates) by emphasizing social issues and wordplay during matches. Miller’s account of the team’s year sheds light on both the state of urban education today and the status of an evolving academic sport.

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