Archives For Education


A Gloriously Impractical Invitation

A Review of

Teaching and Christian Imagination 
David I. Smith and Susan M. Felch

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  
Reviewed by Dan Schmidt


As one who’s been pastoring for a while, and more recently adjuncting at a local college, I’m on the lookout for ways to improve what I bring to the classroom and sanctuary. One of my strategies has been to pay attention to those who are really good at what they do.
So when the opportunity to review Teaching and Christian Imagination, by David Smith and Susan Felch, came along, I jumped. Yes, I saw “Imagination” in the title, and I read the back cover blurb—but I figured that sooner or later, the authors—specialists as classroom teachers and theorists—would get down to bullet points and portable techniques. It only took a few pages of reading, however, to realize that this wasn’t that kind of book. Instead, Smith and Felch (along with several others) want to draw readers into the what if’s more than the how to’s. What impressed me as I read was the sense that by giving attention to the former, one is much better prepared to manage the latter.

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Found this brief clip of Irish poet Paul Muldoon talking about why we have such a difficult time with poetry.


Paul Muldoon’s new collection of poems is:

One Thousand Things Worth Knowing: Poems

Hardback: FSG, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

*** One of our New Book Releases to Watch for this week!

“The fact of the matter is that most of us have a really bad time with poetry. For most of us, it begins in high school, if not earlier. “

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Addressing Educational Disparities.

 A Feature Review of

Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids
Nicole Baker Fulgham

Paperback: Brazos Press, 2013
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by David Swanson.


There will be forty-nine fewer public schools in Chicago when fall rolls around in a few months. These shuttered neighborhood schools were casualties in the ongoing war of education reform. Pensions, property taxes, charter schools, teachers unions, segregated neighborhoods, and city government all have their places in this complicated war. The children have a place too; more often than not, they are the victims.


As a Christian I watched the back and forth leading up to the school closings with one specific question in mind: How do individual Christians and local congregations respond to the education crisis in my city and around the country? If there is any doubt that public education is in crisis then Nicole Baker Fulgham’s book, Educating All God’s Children, should convince the most dubious skeptic.  Early on she outlines the inequities most of us have become accustomed to: far greater percentages of Asian American and White students gradate high school in four years than do African American and Hispanic/Latino students; noticeably fewer African American forth-graders preform basic math skills compared with White students.  Many of us have heard these sorts of statics often enough that we no longer really hear them; Educating All God’s Children makes sure we listen closely while beginning to imagine a different future.

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Inspired Inquiry

A Review of

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education

Stratford Caldecott

Paperback: Angelico Press, 2012
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Brett Beasley


Americans have never been more aware that our schools are letting our children down. We face the disturbing truth again and again on the radio, in the newspapers, and in political speeches. A few blocks from my home a billboard announces, “30% of High School Students Drop Out.” Films like Waiting for Superman expose the bureaucracy and special interests that made the problem so intractable. Nevertheless, we hold out hope that another program, another initiative, or another piece of legislation might come in time to alleviate the worst effects of the problem.

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Love Makes for a Compelling Read

A Feature Review of

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character

Paul Tough

Hardback: HMH Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox.


With a subtitle like “Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character,” it’s hard not to think that How Children Succeed, Paul Tough’s second book, is being pitched to the politicized market of an election year. The contents, however, are hardly partisan; instead, Tough delivers a highly compassionate exploration of strategies to help impoverished children overcome the limitations of their circumstances. In many ways, this book is a natural followup to Tough’s previous title, “Whatever It Takes,” a profile of Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, the ambitious project Tough first chronicled in the pages of the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Canada knew the devastating effects of poverty on personal potential, and he was no longer satisfied to save one in a hundred children from that fate. He wanted to save them all. Whatever It Takes examined Canada’s Herculean effort to cast a net over a handful of city blocks in Harlem, a net so fine that no child in the target zone could possibly slip through. In engineering his project, Canada employed — and Tough explored — a grab bag of scientific and/or data-driven techniques to try to effect change in children.


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An excerpt from journalist Jonathan Kozol’s new book:

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

Jonathan Kozol

Hardback: Crown, 2012.
Buy now : [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

Publishers Weekly gave this new book a starred review, saying: “Eschewing social science jargon and deploying extraordinary powers of observation and empathy, Kozol crafts dense, novelistic character studies that reveal the interplay between individual personality and the chaos of impoverished circumstances. Like a latter-day Dickens (but without the melodrama), he gives us another powerful indictment of America’s treatment of the poor.”

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Liberal Arts for the Christian LifeGlorifying the King

Liberal Arts for the Christian Life,

edited by Jeffry C. Davis & Philip G. Ryken.

Paperback: Crossway, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mark Eckel

“When you see a book with Leland Ryken’s name, buy it; ask questions later.”  For the past 25 years this has been my mantra whenever anyone has wondered about books for the humanities.  Leland Ryken’s 1981 volume The Christian Imagination brought together essential essays linking a Christianly coherent liberal arts viewpoint for many.  Ryken’s small, exceptional 1985 introduction to a Christian interpretation of literature, Windows to the World: Literature from a Christian Perspective, stoked my own literary fires, lighting the torches of many of my students.  Ryken’s study Redeeming the Time: A Christian Approach to Work and Leisure still stands as the most direct, accessible work on the twin subjects ever written.  Of course, his books on Bible teaching, the Puritans, Scripture as literature, and Christian interpretation of the classics add to the depth of any learner’s understanding from the pen of a world class scholar.  Over the last decade, Ryken has committed his attention to Bible translation.  The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation (2002) gives explanation for his oversight of The English Standard Version (2001) including the first ever Literary Study Bible (2007).  Lest one would think Ryken simply a writer, he has spent 40 years at Wheaton College training students to properly understand English literature from a Christian worldview.  Consider the multiplicity of students who have had the privilege of Ryken’s literary erudition and expertise.  How many homes and churches have a broadened understanding of life having sat under Ryken’s tutelage?!

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A Brief Review of

Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife
James D. Kirylo.
Paperback: Peter Lang, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Paulo Freire is one of the most important thinkers of the last half-century, although you may never have heard his name – unless of course, you have a background in education.  And even among educators, his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed is widely recognized, but not so much is known about Freire, the man, and the context out of which this work emerged.  Enter James Kirylo’s new book, Paulo Freire: The Man from Recife, a work that utilizes a variety of styles (biography, interview, scholarly engagement) to depict aptly the diversity of Freire’s life and work. Engaging Freire on a number of different levels as Kirylo does here, is helpful in shaping a robust image of Freire’s life, but also may mean that parts of the book are less interesting to some readers than others.

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A Brief Review of

Fields of Learning:
The Student Farm Movement in North America.
Laura Sayre and Sean Clark, eds.
Hardback: The University Press of Kentucky, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Sarah Winfrey.

It sounds almost idyllic: students stream out of classes, where they’ve worked and wracked their brains studying everything from math and science to English and Spanish, and head straight for the fields, where they use their hands and lithe young bodies to coax produce out of the ground. Add to this picture an image of these same students sitting down, several hours later, to a meal featuring the fruits of their labors, and you have what many people think of when they bother to think of a student farm at all.

However, as usual, the idyllic picture doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s where Fields of Learning comes in, to fill in the gaps. Much goes on behind the scenes of a student farm and this book touches on everything from funding a farm to what it takes to start one to practical aspects of integrating what goes on with the farm into the rest of an institution’s curriculum. It will mostly interest those who have been part of a student farm (whether as student, faculty, staff, or in another role) or those who are looking to start one, though those focusing on educational trends will find information of value, too.

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A Brief Review of

Teaching Through Storytelling:
Creating Fictional Stories
that Illuminate the Message of Jesus
Jon Huckins.
Paperback: Zondervan, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Buy a Signed Copy from the Author ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

In their new book, The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry, Andrew Root and Kenda Creasy Dean argue that the youth group in churches can be a place for significant theological reflection and engagement with God’s mission in the world (Watch for our review of this book in our next print issue). One of the key pieces of this task however, is introducing students to, and immersing them in, the biblical story.  In this vein, comes Jon Huckins’s new book Teaching Through the Art of Story Telling: Creating Fictional Stories that Illuminate the Message of Jesus.  For a number of years now, Huckins has been engaging the youth of his church by telling modern day parables that spur reflection and invite students into the way of Jesus.  In this new book, Huckins explains why he has been drawn to storytelling, as a compelling way of engaging the hearts and minds of the youth in his church, and he also explains how he creates and tells such stories.  In the final section of the book, he provides several sample stories that he has used.  Huckins’s work here is refreshing in that he shows a deep understanding that humankind lives by stories and forms his practice around the ways that he has seen stories work in the teaching of Jesus, as well as in contemporary culture.  He says: “There’s something about stories that engage not only the mind, but also the heart.  We become part of the story.  We picture ourselves living out this life that’s being revealed to us, and subconsciously we relate it to our own.” Continue Reading…