The book looks at intelligence and the integrated skills of blue collar and service workers which are far too often marginalized by cultural stereotyping - and by people in education.
Mike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. He has several personal takes on this research. His mother was a waitress and, because of a error, he was placed in the "vocational track" for two years of high school before being switched to the college track.
He observed how his mother used timing, concentration, strategic efficiency and a high degree of social skills in her everyday work as a waitress. He looks at how vocational teachers use problem-solving skills and teach the persistence necessary to success in jobs like being an electrician.
The book presents an overview of the divide that exists between the "academic" and vocational (which, of course IS academic) worlds.
Rose also published last fall a book called Why School? so you might guess he is a critic of schools. Well, yes, he is - and no, he's not.
We hear so much about education these days – test scores, reform battles – but little that we hear gets to the heart of why education matters. That’s why I wrote Why School?, to get us to think about why we send kids to school and often return to school ourselves. Along the way, I hope readers reflect on what made a difference in their own education. Education turned my life around – saved it, really – and I’ve taught for close to forty years, so this issue of the purpose of education is close to me, both professionally and personally.
That book asks questions about pretty fundamental beliefs that we have about education - What does it mean to be educated? What is intelligence? How should we think about intelligence, education, and opportunity in an open society?
Has education policy lost its way? I think so. I think Mike Rose would agree. And both of us still believe in education.
A recent post on his blog is titled "21st Century Skills: Education’s New Cliché" and that fits nicely with my own feelings as seen in several of my own recent posts. I am fearful of where educational policy is headed and this conflict that I feel about what schools should be preparing students for and what they are preparing students for is key to the fear.
What is good teaching? Good teachers. What are the qualities of a good teacher? In an interview Rose did with Teacher Magazine he says:
The first is that these teachers were knowledgeable. They knew things, whether it was a particular subject matter, like literature or science or history, or child development, or the teaching of reading or the teaching of math.
They were also resourceful. Especially if they had been teachers for a while. They had piled up a lot of materials and they would draw from sources that they had at their disposal.
But there’s also a kind of performative resourcefulness. You’ve seen this when you watch good teachers—they just seem to know what metaphor or what analogy to use to illustrate something, or when a kid gets stuck, they have another way to come at a question. There’s a resourcefulness of technique and approach.
The third thing—and maybe this should be the first—is that they created a safe and respectful space. That is, regardless of the teaching style, you could tell that the students in that classroom felt free to venture an idea, or free to go down a road and see where a train of thought would take them. There’s a sense of physical, emotional, and intellectual safety and respect that emerged in these rooms.