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Reviews

Chronic Mental Illness

A Living Nightmare

A plea for compassion, better understanding, and more funding to help those with mental illness and their caregivers.

Eace Bee was a promising young student hoping to become an architect or a rapper when, nearing the end of high school, he was, by his own account, struck down by crippling mental illness. Diagnosed as a severe paranoid schizophrenic, he has for 20-plus years struggled with mood swings that can make him seem menacing, voices from animate and inanimate objects that only he can hear, and behavior patterns that have put him into hospitals again and again. His propensity for not taking his meds hasn’t helped. In this unusual book edited by Pickles, Eace; his mother, Priscilla Bee; and his sister, Honey Bee, all debut authors, tell their intimate story of the sheer horror and stigma of mental illness. Priscilla—a teacher and school administrator and a member of the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill—adds numerous recommendations to the narrative. She calls for substantial increases in public spending to train mental health professionals, teachers, counselors, administrators, police, and others who come in contact with mentally ill or at-risk young people. Stronger emphasis is needed, she says, on jobs programs and early intervention that goes beyond merely funneling students into special education curriculums. For Eace, she says, what is so obviously required is long-term comprehensive care in an open and supportive environment. But her search for such a program has yielded disappointing results. Instead, the care Eace receives has been episodic, disjointed, not especially compassionate, and too often complicated by bureaucratic quagmires. Her point that the historic malady of racism has infected treatment of the mentally ill is well made.

Succeeds in helping illuminate the realities of mental illness, what it does to families, and how it is treated—or mistreated.

 

Kirkus Review

 

Are You In a Pickle?

Lessons Learned Along The Way: Students’ Performance And Achievement Gaps

By: Patricia L. Pickles, Ph.D.

A timely, insightful assessment of American education, with an emphasis on eliminating the “achievement gap.”

With all the attention paid to economic malaise, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the American education system is also in crisis (some of it caused by underfunded school systems). Pickles, a lifelong professional educator who holds a doctorate in reading and education administration, thinks most school system administrators find themselves “in a pickle,” and so she lays out a plan “for achieving at high levels and eliminating the gap among subgroups and across socioeconomic lines.” Pickles admits her work is an outgrowth of her dissertation about reading achievement, which she wrote two decades ago, but she’s careful to note that she has broadened her scope to focus on systemic change. First, the author offers a historical overview to put current challenges in perspective and then addresses three key areas—“Creating Schools and Districts for Excellence” (specific strategies and tactics for improving students’ performance and closing achievement gaps), “Educational Leadership and Professional Relationships” (a discussion of leadership principles applicable to teachers and school administrators) and “Building External Partnerships” (how and why partnerships are useful in meeting schools’ challenges). In the book’s final section, Pickles presents “A Future Platform for Education,” in which she offers numerous specific suggestions, keyed to instructional leadership, professional relationships and families, partners and the greater community. There is no shortage of ideas for improvement, but unlike some works that may reach for lofty, unachievable goals, Pickles grounds her suggestions in research and the practicality of her considerable experience as a classroom teacher, principal and superintendent of schools. Pickles correctly focuses the majority of her attention on low-performing schools, suggesting that “if we can fix these schools, then we can fix all schools.” This book will undoubtedly find its largest audience among forward-thinking school administrators who continue to believe that they have the ability to measurably impact the quality of education.

Pickles’ message may be most appropriate for administrators, but teachers, school boards and concerned parents will also benefit from reading this book as it will remind them that the welfare of students should always be the first priority in educational reform.

 

Kirkus Review