A Simple Justice: the Challenge of Small Schools

Activists and chroniclers of Chicago’s small schools movement, editors William Ayers, Michael Klonsky and Gabrielle Lyon have assembled fifteen uplifting, informative essays in A Simple Justice. Offering history, philosophy, cultural criticism, pedagogy and calls to action, the various contributors make explicit the connections among small schools, social justice and educational equality. Charles M. Payne’s examination of the socially progressive heritage of Mississippi’s Freedom Schools links the small schools movement with 1960’s Civil Rights work, reminding educators that the work they’re doing in schools today has powerful social and historical meaning. Deborah Meier provides “The Power of Relationships,” a concise think piece. Pedro Noguera reflects on the implications of educational achievement in Barbados. Most effective are the varied portraits of small learning communities. Among them: an interview with Tamara Witzl, head of Telpochcalli, a small Chicago K-8 school devoted to Mexican arts and culture, and Nancy Mohr’s “Small Schools are Not Miniature Large Schools,” with incisive reflections on her time as principal at University Heights High School in the Bronx.

Gil Schmerler ends the collection with “Engaging the System,” nine pages that concretely assist educators and leaders who strive to expand the existence of well-run small schools from isolated hothouse rarities to the norm, possible in all places, many in number and necessarily differentiated. If you need to assemble arguments, persuasions and inspirations in support of small schools and social justice, ally yourself with the authors collected in
A Simple Justice.

reviewed by Jill Davidson