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September 1, 1998
Vol. 56
No. 1


The Discipline of Hope

The Discipline of Hope: Learning from a Lifetime of Teaching by Herbert Kohl. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Reading Herb Kohl's book reminded me how proud I am to be an educator. This inspiring work sets before the reader Kohl's lifetime of remaking the institution of public schooling into an experience worthy of his students.
Those who follow progressive education will find all the big ideas here: student-centered instruction; community-based alternative schooling; and curriculum based in social activism, among many others. But they are not presented as a litany of philosophies. Rather, the reader witnesses how Kohl developed them as he evolved personal approaches to serving the needs of the various populations of his students.
This recounting is as illuminating as it is heartening. It allows the reader to understand teaching as a vital profession that functions by establishing effective relationships. Few teachers, however, will be able to imitate the specifics of Kohl's life in education. It is unrealistic to expect most teachers to do as Kohl did—accept invitations to dinner from the parents of his inner-city students or work without pay with the most challenging of classes over and over during his sterling career.
Although Kohl's brand of educational missionary work and his liberal views about society's problems are probably far beyond the appetite of the vast majority who share his profession, his understanding of what is wrong with the institution of public schooling and his description of how resourceful teachers can bring life-affirming education into its classrooms are nourishing food for thought.
Published by Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Price: $24.
—Reviewed by Mark Gura, Board of Education, New York, New York.

This article was published anonymously, or the author name was removed in the process of digital storage.

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