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What Kind of Citizen?
Educating Our Children for the Common Good

Joel Westheimer

Pub Date: May 2015, 128 pages

Paperback: $24.95, ISBN: 0807756350
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Praise for What Kind of Citizen?:

"Joel Westheimer has written a necessary and brilliant book. Not only does he dismantle the pedagogy of testing, instrumental rationality, and repression at work in the public schools, he reclaims and extends the important goal of defining schools as democratic public spheres, students as engaged citizens, and social responsibility as central to the project of education." 
Henry Giroux, Global Television Network Chair in Communication Studies, McMaster University

"Joel Westheimer has for many years challenged teachers, students, and community members with a profound series of questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? What kind of society should we create? Who do we want to become? Here he synthesizes his ideas about participatory democracy, moral commitment, education, and justice; deepens his astonishing contribution; and extends his reach in a style that s dazzling and clear, entirely accessible, and grounded in real experiences. With What Kind of Citizen?, Westheimer distinguishes himself as a leading thinker and activist in the radical tradition of W.E.B. DuBois, John Dewey, bell hooks, and Fanny Coppin." 
William Ayers, school reform activist and author of Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom, Second Edition

"Providing practicing educators with a goldmine of information and examples 
This book indicates, once again, that Westheimer is one of the most prolific, original, and visionary scholars doing citizenship education work and research." 
James A. Banks, Kerry and Linda Killinger Endowed Chair in Diversity Studies and Director, Center for Multicultural Education, University of Washington

"Joel Westheimer argues persuasively that the current emphasis on standardization in the schools not only diminishes teacher professionalism, but conflicts with citizenship education. Students these days learn to answer questions, but citizens learn to ask them."
Diane Ravitch, Professor of Education at New York University, historian of education, author of Reign of Error

"Westheimer is practitioner, critic and visionary. This book is a wake-up call to rethink the real purpose of education." —Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

"In this refreshingly accessible book, Westheimer explains the importance of helping students to think critically and question tradition."
Alfie Kohn, author of Feel-Bad Education and The Myth of the Spoiled Child

"Education is about more than test scores and measured achievement. Joel Westheimer, who has spent years studying and investigating civic engagement of students, has written this brilliant book to make the case for civic and critical engagement of our students, rather than a standardized curriculum. The book is compelling, very accessible, full of inspiring examples, and sometimes even funny. It's a book that every teacher should have and that would make any mother proud."
Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Boston College

"In this practical, personal, and hopeful work, Joel Westheimer asks us to imagine the kind of people we want to be—and how schools can help us become those people. What Kind of Citizen? cracks open the pleasing but often myopic lingo of citizenship education. Readers are left with an alternative vision of schooling that speaks directly to today's social and environmental crises—and to young people's hunger for a meaningful life. "
Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools

"In this highly readable, persuasive book, Joel Westheimer reminds us that, in our zeal for higher test scores, we seem to have forgotten the highest aim of education to produce better people, more thoughtful citizens."
Nel Noddings, Lee Jacks Professor of Education Emerita, Stanford University

How can schools teach the skills required for a strong democracy to flourish? What Kind of Citizen? asks readers to imagine the kind of society they would like to live in—and then shows the ways in which schools can be used to make that vision a reality. Westheimer draws on groundbreaking research on school programs and policies to sharply critique the current direction of school reform. He points to the many varied and powerful ways to teach children and young adults to engage critically, to think about social issues, and to participate in authentic debate that acknowledges that intelligent adults can have different opinions. But today’s teachers are being forced to abandon these practices in favor of test-preparation in only a very narrow set of academic subjects. How did this happen? What can we do to set schools back on the right track? How can we realign school goals with what research shows parents, children, and teachers actually care about? How can we save our schools from today’s myopic interpretation of what constitutes an education? Westheimer answers these questions and makes a powerful call for schools to become more engaging, more democratic, and more educative.

Book Features:

  • A comprehensive look at why schools should be at the forefront of public engagement and how educators and policymakers can make that happen.
  • Accessible and engaging discussions based on consultations with hundreds of school teachers and civic leaders. 
  • Empirical research from one of the most influential frameworks for citizenship and democratic education, “Three Kinds of Citizens,” that emerged from collaboration between the author and Dr. Joseph Kahne.

Joel Westheimer is professor and university research chair in democracy and education at the University of Ottawa and education columnist for CBC Radio. He is the editor of Pledging Allegiance: The Politics of Patriotism in America's Schools.


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