From the press release:
No local subject generates more controversy than the schools. Members of the board of education intently clash with one another. Media exposés about problems in the schools are endless. A peek at what is going on here is found in a new comprehensive study of Denver Public Schools (DPS), Phil Goodstein, Schools for a New Century, 1995–2020.
This is volume three of a majestic study of Denver’s school system from the first classes in the area in 1859. Volume one, The Denver School Book, outlines the rise of public education in the Mile High City from the time of the Pikes Peak gold rush until the retirement of the city’s longtime superintendent, Kenneth K. Oberholtzer in 1967. He left behind festering problems that soon exploded into controversies about whether the schools provided equal educational opportunity. This led to intense clashes over the need for integration and whether mandatory school busing was the way to achieve it. That is the topic of volume two, The Denver School Busing Wars, 1967–1995.
School busing more aggravated than bridged the severe racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps in the city and its schools. In the wake of the end of the court busing order, Denver Public Schools set off on new paths to try to provide educational equity. Over the past generation, it has been a leader in charter schools while a testing routine has weighed down on students and teachers. The board of education has, at times, selected politically ambitious non-educators as superintendent. What has happened here is at the heart of Schools for a New Century.
Besides looking at what goes on in the classroom, the study is something of a history of Denver in the early 21st century. It includes glimpses on the rise of such politicians as John Hickenlooper, Jared Polis, and Michael Bennet, all private school boys. The book examines the city’s growth, visiting sections of town such as Lowry and Green Valley Ranch where there has been an explosion of new schools. Most of all, Schools for a New Century argues that schools reflect society. As such, there are no magical fixes to problems that have plagued the public school system since its emergence in pre–Civil War America.
Along the way, the well-illustrated Schools for a New Century probes disputes over classroom discipline, the role of cheerleaders, performance pay, and the rise of a preschool program. The book explores the problematic nature of education in art and music. It asks why there has been such a fixation on math. In the process, it also examines who has been on the school board and the incessant drone for what is called “reform” of the schools. Bringing the action to the onset of Covid in 2020, the study further observes community grumblings about the schools.
A favorite quote of author Phil Goodstein is Mark Twain’s quip, “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” Indirectly, Schools for a New Century ponders how and whether this applies to Denver Public Schools. This is apropos for Goodstein, a product of DPS who was never happy in the classroom. Since he graduated from East High in 1970, he has emerged as the city’s leading historian with nearly 30 bulky books looking at all parts of the Mile High metropolis. He hopes that by exploring what the schools have done right and where they have gone wrong, an aroused, educated populace will act to build a school system worthy of the best of the city.
Copies of Schools for a New Century are available at better bookstores. For more information, contact Goodstein at 303/333–1095 or email@example.com.
Copies should be available sometime next week, Sept. 18–24.