Saturday, June 25, 2011

Book 27: School of Dreams

Book 27: School of Dreams: Making the Grade at a Top American High School, by Edward Humes

The first book of Humes's that I read was his mid-90s No Matter How Loud I Shout, which discussed the juvenile court system in Los Angeles. The professor of the juvenile justice class I took assigned it so that we could get a better feel for the realities facing children involved with the justice system in the United States.

School of Dreams, while thorough in its investigative journalism, didn't offer the same personality that NMHLIS did. The book offers an in-depth look at Cerritos, California's Whitney High, which has for many years been the top-ranked public high school in the country (though some ranking systems discount it because it does operate as a semi-magnet school).

The focus of the book is the struggle: of the school itself, to remain open despite a hostile political climate; of the students, mostly Asian, who have to endure all the pressures that come along with being so bright in such a competitive environment; and the teachers, who have to deal with the school, the students, the parents, and the task of teaching through it all.

Humes follows a handful of students, documenting their struggles - the girls who love art, but whose parents are set on them being doctors, for example. While he does a good job of it, I think that this viewpoint is perhaps a bit tired. I think I've read a few of these sorts of books before, though, so it's my fault, perhaps. :)

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