Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Book review: 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education by Charles Sykes

Charles Sykes is a radio talk show host out of Milwaukee. He has written several books.

In 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education Charles takes up the challenge to counter act the weak education that students get in public schools. The focus is not algebra lessons or history facts, but lessons about life that so few public school graduates seem to have even heard of, let alone learned. As a sample here are the first five rules:

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1: Life is not fair. Get used to it.
#2: The real world won't care as much as your school does about your self-esteem. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
#3: Sorry, you won't make sixty thousand dollars a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a company car. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a designer label.
#4: You are not entitled...
#5: No matter what your daddy says, you are not a princess...
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Here are the full fifty.


This book is written to teenagers. With each rule Charles explains what the rule means and why they need to learn it. The book reads quickly. It is entertaining. There are fun stories, and thoughtful observations. My 13-year-old daughter read and liked it.

One of the main themes of the books is encouraging teenagers to think about long term consequences. Don't do something stupid just because at the moment it seems OK, or it seems you can get away with it.

Another main theme is encouraging teenagers to treat others with respect. Treat your parents with respect because they have sacrificed so much to raise you. Treat you family with respect because they love you. Treat everyone with respect because it is the right thing to do.

Charles Sykes is pretty hard on teachers and especially public schools. He writes that some of the problem is because teachers get tenure. I was surprised that so few tenured teachers ever get fired. In California over five years out of 220,000 only 62 teachers were dismissed. Over a seven year period in Illinois out of 100,000 tenured teachers only 44 were dismissed. On page 36 Charles writes:

"The paradox here is that we have entrusted the preparation of young people who will enter an increasingly competitive world to people who have effectively insulated themselves from the consequences of failure."

There were a lot of other good observations and thoughts. Here are a few of my favorites.

This book is good for teenagers, and for parents. I think some times parents are hesitant to establish rules and to enforce them. This book will help remind parents why they need to be parents.


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Technorati tags: Charles Sykes, parenting, children, public school, public education, education

3 comments:

Renae said...

Thanks for sharing these witty replies to our current views of education. I am going to spend some time later reading all fifty because I enjoyed the ones you highlighted so much. Pumping raw sewage into their brains, indeed!

Homestead Mama said...

Looks like a great book!! I had to laugh at number one - - - "life isn't fair" In our household there are 3 forbidden words "thing, stuff, and fair" I do take issue with the "you can't make 60K - as there are some innovative, cutting edge kids out there starting their own businesses and certainly could make that much - - - or more!!! Great discussion points!

Henry Cate said...

I think in general Charles Sykes was saying kids who messed around in high school, didn't get an education were unrealistic in their expectation to be making serious money at 17.

I think he would be one of the first to admit that if you work hard you can make $60K a year.

It is a good book. I hope you enjoy it.