This volume uses excerpts from diaries (some of which are published here for the first time), pages from the official ghetto archives, decrees and speeches by Ghetto Chairman Mordechai Chaim Rumknowski, and official German documents to present a chronological and multiperspective view of myriad aspects of ghetto life. As the editors note in their introduction, "reading through the book chronologically, or using the index by authors to trace each voice seriatim, [the reader] will experience the progression of the war against the Jews as it advances through Europe's second-largest Jewish community" (xiii). Classroom teachers and students will find these readings highly informative, extremely fascinating, touching in their depiction of the Jews' travails, and easy to understand.
The core of the material presented in this volume comes from the archive of the Lodz Ghetto materials collected by noted scholar and survivor of the Lodz Ghetto Dr. Lucjan Dobroszycki, "whose life's work has been to bring the writing from the Lodz Ghetto to print". The editors note that they "conducted a worldwide search and...over ten thousand pages of material were translated during a three-year period" (xx).
Interspersed throughout the volume are more than 140 photographs taken inside the Lodz Ghetto. Many of these photos are published here for the first time. Most are black-and-white, but a stunning set of colored photographs is included as well. All of the photographs are fascinating and informative. Each one complements the text and, as a result, adds key insights into the plight of the Jews.
The excerpts from the various diaries (by such individuals as Oskar Singer, David Sierakowiak, Irena Liebman, and numerous unknown individuals) and monographs make this an invaluable book. Many, if not most, of the diaries were written in the dire hope that even if the writers did not survive, their words would. While some wrote their diaries as acts of protest or as acts of conscience, many also wrote in the hope that the descriptions, insights, and pleas would ultimately constitute a record both of what took place in the hearts and minds of individuals and of events in the larger community so that, ultimately, the entire world would be informed of the Nazis' horrific deeds. In light of the monstrous conditions with which the diarists were faced, all such efforts were truly Herculean.
As the editors duly and significantly note, the excerpts from the diaries in this volume are radically different from the memoirs and oral histories of survivors that were written and collected in the years following the liberation of the concentration and extermination camps:
Here there is no sense of knowing what is going to happen-little certainty among their subjects about the Nazis' plan. These accounts were not written with arrival at the death camp as their inevitable conclusion. Instead, we read of the instinctual struggle to hold on to human experience: family, art, education, sex, religion, hope. But also of the progressive loss of those values to grief, exhaustion, and starvation. (xiv)
This volume offers tremendous insight not only into the despicable motivations, goals, and actions of the Nazis but also into the horrific fears, terrible hope, and gargantuan struggle to retain both a shred of dignity in light of degradation and atrocities and the tremendous will to hold on to life itself. All in all, this is a magnificent book that provides a wealth of insights in a highly engaging manner about a historical period, location, and set of events that are often overlooked in a study of the Holocaust.
University of Arkansas
The World Book Encyclopedia of People and Places. Chicago: World Book, 1992. Six volumes, approximately 350 pp. each. $149.00 (school/library price). Reviewed by Pat Nickell.
The World Book Encyclopedia of People and Places is just what its name implies-a compendium of information about the human, built, and natural environments that adorn our planet. It is composed of six volumes of a manageable 350 or so pages each, in which countries and major dependencies of the world are arranged in alphabetical order from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
The format is exceptional. Each country is described in at least one two-page "article" that provides basic geographic information, a brief history, summarized economic and cultural information, and photos, maps, and graphics to illustrate location, place, and quality of life. Selected countries receive additional two-page articles that provide more in-depth coverage of unique features. According to the marketing brochure, the number of articles included depends upon population or level of "prominence in world affairs," which, of course, raises the question of who made such determinations and how. One might also wonder at the chimerical quality of such decisions given, for example, the relative prominence of the Falklands, Kuwait, and Uzbekistan twenty years ago and today.
The reader-friendly pages are dominated by excellent photography and are organized in a predictable layout to help youngsters gain confidence in locating information. If I were still a classroom teacher, this set would have a special place on my free-reading shelf and would no doubt be a popular choice among students. I would also use it to jump-start the reluctant beginning researcher who is intimidated by the sheer weight of regular encyclopedias and overwhelmed by whole books on single subjects.
The series emphasizes the world and its people today, incorporating current political, economic, and social conditions, and leaders, flags, seals, and other particulars that are incredibly tenuous in this era of rapid political change. Thus, while it is amazingly current for the moment, it will unfortunately be dated rather quickly; the series does not rely on those enduring entries such as "Shakespeare" and "primates" that keep us from throwing out those encyclopedias Dad bought in 1957.
Of particular importance to social studies professionals, these books seem especially sensitive in describing cultural differences. Distinguishing cultural attributes are not ignored, but are treated objectively and are balanced with photos and text that imply equally important similarities. Along these lines, however, some may find fault with featured topic selections. For example, of the seven articles describing Argentina, one is entitled "gauchos." A photo caption explains that "in the past, gauchos lived off the land and spent most of their money on silver spurs, silver belts, and dazzling ornaments for their horses." Another notes that "a spirit of rugged independence is seen on this gaucho's face. The origins of the word gaucho are unknown, but some people trace it to the Arawakan Indian world 'cach,' meaning 'comrade.'" Aside from the subtle discrepancy between the notion of a fiercely independent hoarder of silver baubles and that of "comrade," one might argue that this does to Argentina what overemphasis on cowboys has done to the United States. On the other hand, it could also be argued that gauchos provide a viable "hook" for Argentina that youngsters need. And certainly gauchos are a real and observable phenomena of Argentine culture.
Overall, I give this series high marks. I may have to toss it in five years, but by then it should be worn out enough to earn junk status anyway.
Fayette County Public Schools
Schoolhouse Politics: Lessons from the Sputnik Era, by Peter B. Dow. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. 299 pp. $34.95 cloth. Transforming Power: Domination, Empowerment, and Education, by Seth Kreisberg. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992. 264 pp. $17.95 paper. Reviewed by Kathy Bickmore.
Powerful Ideas: Teachers' Involvement in Curricular Innovations
These two books present contrasting views on how teachers develop their abilities to teach critical and creative thinking within the complex constraints of diverse public school classrooms. Schoolhouse Politics focuses on the power of pivotal ideas to inspire and move teachers and their students. Transforming Power focuses on individual innovative teachers' development of ideas about power. In both cases, conflict is in the foreground as a catalyst for classroom interaction and thinking, and in the background as the risk and the raison d'etre of innovative education in a pluralist political context.
Peter B. Dow's Schoolhouse Politics examines "Man: A Course of Study" (the MACOS curriculum), a project funded by National Science Foundation grants to its parent organization, Educational Services Inc. (since renamed Educational Development Center). The MACOS project was developed in the mid-1960s through an extraordinary collaboration of scholarly and practical talent during a generation of educational reform brought about by the perceived national security threat of the 1957 Soviet Sputnik expedition. Dow traces the shaping of this prototype for a new kind of elementary social studies course and chronicles the events that led to its demise. As a participant in the process, tempered by reflection and interviews a generation later, Dow captures vividly the conflicting array of voices interested in the project, thus providing rich insights into alternative conceptions of social studies curriculum.
The MACOS project applied Jerome Bruner's key theoretical principle: if curricula are built around powerful organizing ideas (e.g., what is human about human beings?), then students can construct deep and transferable understanding at an early age. In an era of rapid change, only the most fundamental concepts can make new situations comprehensible. Instead of an "expanding environments" curriculum that progresses gradually from the local and familiar, MACOS used "post-holes" (vivid details regarding selected unfamiliar cases). MACOS units employed cross-species comparisons to illuminate concepts of language, life cycle, and learning, and cross-cultural comparisons to illuminate concepts of social organization, technology, and explanation of the unknown. The course used participatory pedagogy and primary source materials rather than a textbook: like "expert" scientists, students were intended to take responsibility for inquiry and evaluation of uncertain knowledge. Conflictual ideas were embraced as learning opportunities. Clearly, MACOS represented a challenge to accepted ways of thinking about children and education.
Teaching Conflict in a Plural Society
Three decades after the genesis of MACOS, the theme of educational reform has shifted from raising the ceiling of excellence in training scientific leadership to broadening the floor of minimum achievement for common citizens. Dow presents tantalizing but disjointed tidbits regarding the accessibility and comprehensibility of a curriculum such as MACOS for a broad range of students. On the one hand, the use of diverse activities and media tapped into an unusual range of student abilities and learning styles, presumably giving more students an opportunity to learn. "Teachers were surprised to find that they could no longer predict who might be the star performer on a given day" (259). On the other hand, complex and speculative curriculum may increase the variance among students: unstructured and unexplicit activities draw upon academic confidence and "codes" for proper participation that are skewed along lines of privilege (Delpit 1988). An evaluation of the 1966 MACOS field test, for example, found boys substantially more enthusiastic than girls in the same classes about the "ESI way of teaching" (115). The problem of "fit" between conceptually rich curriculum and diverse students deserves clearer focus and further investigation.
Once teachers overcame the MACOS creators' initial ambivalence about their abilities and importance as partners in curriculum development, some instructive issues were illuminated (139). Foremost was the value and difficulty of managing conflicting perspectives, both in subject-matter content and in pedagogical process. Teachers had to clarify for themselves and to become comfortable with the course's controversial material before they could shape learning environments in which their students could freely explore such ideas. Further, Dow's story shows that even successful classroom implementation and dissemination by skilled and enthusiastic teachers does not protect true innovations from the jaws of interest group politics.
Teaching Power: How Important Is the Subject Matter?
It is in situations of conflict that problems of power become most salient. Dow reports that "the overriding purpose of the teacher program was to empower teachers, to give them confidence in the power of their own minds and in their skills as instructors, just as the course was designed to empower children" (154). Empowerment of teachers and their students is the central concern of Transforming Power. According to Kreisberg, a teacher or student who is empowered has a "voice," or "a degree of self-confidence" born of thinking and acting, understanding and control (163).
Kreisberg's assumption is similar to Dow's: teachers can (and should) learn to practice sharing democratic power in the classroom to improve students' opportunities to develop as empowered citizens. Curriculum innovation may be fostered by supplementing the resources of neighborhood schools with outside skills and ideas. Kreisberg interviewed six teachers, all active participants in one chapter of Educators for Social Responsibility, a ten-year-old organization whose mission overlaps that of ESI/EDC. His study focuses not on ESR or any of its curricular innovations, but on the generalized "empowerment experiences" of a few of the organization's most committed teachers.
The teachers in Kreisberg's study were attracted to ESR by their concern about world events, especially the arms race. Because their experiences are analyzed independent of this important subject matter, however, a wealth of potentially pithy detail is lost. Although all six teachers apparently participated in developing ESR-sponsored curricula, the book barely mentions this material. Each teacher discusses power issues with occasional reference to a different curriculum, from English to health to world hunger. What makes these six teachers' stories so potentially interesting is that they came to their understandings of educational empowerment through collaborative work on innovative curriculum that did not shy away from conflict. What makes this book so frustrating is that the specifics that would ground this inspiration in reality or allow others to learn from their experience are obscured.
Can problems of power, joint inquiry, or conflict be handled generically? According to Kreisberg, "the process of empowerment can occur anywhere, under just about any conditions" (194). Perhaps so, but this doesn't show educators how to get from here to there. Dow illuminates the particular intersection between the contents of MACOS and the historical time and place of its dissemination, thus explaining both the enthusiasm of participating teachers and the backlash from sectors of the political community. Here is a curricular lesson along Bruner's own lines: the intrinsic interest and educational value of vivid specifics outweighs that of predigested generalities.
Delpit, Lisa. "The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People's Children." Harvard Educational Review 58 (August 1988): 280-98.Kathy Bickmore
Cleveland State University