Book Reviews

Permission to Forget: And Nine Other Root Causes of America’s Frustration with Education

by Lee Jenkins

Reviewed by Dave Smette
Superintendent, Jamestown Public Schools, Jamestown, N.D.


Public schools are receiving a great deal of criticism from many quarters for performance problems. Lee Jenkins, in Permission to Forget: And Nine Other Root Causes of America’s Frustration with Education, takes a hard look at those problems.

Jenkins, who founded From LtoJ Consulting Group after retiring from the superintendency, looks closely at 10 long-standing problems in education. The frustration, he argues, should be blamed on the system itself and primarily in the management of the system.

His focus is on how to go about achieving a quality education by identifying the root cause of the problems that are holding schools back. For instance, why do schools have to do so much remedial teaching? Is it because we have a culture in our schools that permits students to forget the material they have supposedly learned?

Jenkins draws on his various experiences as a teacher, principal, director of curriculum and superintendent for his analysis of the problems and their causes. He provides practical thinking for how leaders at all levels of education can move to change the way we do things.

One change Jenkins suggests is to have a clear focus for continuous improvement and to eliminate the swinging of the pendulum from one fad in education to the next. Concentrating as a system on a focus that is clear to everyone will save energy and achieve results.

(Permission to Forget: And Nine Other Root Causes of America’s Frustration with Education by Lee Jenkins, Quality Press, Milwaukee, Wis., 2004, 155 pp. with index, $30 softcover)