Book Reviews

Prisoners of the Paradigm: What School Board Members, Legislators and Community Leaders Must Know to Reform American Public Education

by Alan Hafer

Reviewed by Audie Waltmon
Assistant Superintendent, Castleberry Independent School District, Fort Worth, Texas

Prisoners of the Paradigm supports the long-held notion that education has been a victim of and sometimes a perpetuator of destructive paradigms affecting instructional programs.

Alan Hafer, a former superintendent in Wyoming and an educational consultant, suggests that real reform in public schools will take place only when school board members and legislators change their paradigms about education. For these non-educators to change their misguided beliefs about how schools operate, they must be given accurate information.

While some educators also harbor beliefs that not all students can learn, that retention is the best solution to remediate students and that ability grouping promotes easier instruction, most educational leaders accept the research on these issues and are trying desperately to apply the best thinking to the classroom, Hafer says.

But his book is probably best used to inform non-educators about changing expectations and attitudes of professional educators. Hafer examines current classroom practices that he considers to be destructive of the instructional process.

His main message is that it will take a lot more than just higher expectations by governing boards and state legislators for real reform to result in improved performance by all students. Expectations without commitment will create more disparity in student outcomes, not less.

(Prisoners of the Paradigm: What School Board Members, Legislators and Community Leaders Must Know to Reform American Public Education by Alan Hafer, FalCo Books, P.O. Box 21355, Boulder, Colo. 80308-4355, 2000, 222 pp. with index, $14.95 softcover)