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Fighting Prosaic Messages

A Portrait of Family Literacies with Critical Essays on the Causes of School Failure

by Henry C Amoroso Jr & Editor Justin Amoroso



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 4/11/2018

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 700
ISBN : 9781512781472
Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 700
ISBN : 9781512781489
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 700
ISBN : 9781512781465

About the Book

Part historical fiction, part memoir, part philosophy of education, this book begins with a story about a woman’s immigration into the U.S. and how three of her generations struggled in the U.S. school system. The book ends with an analysis of why many students fail in school, and what we can do about it. Through story and analysis, this book offers a critique of the U.S. education system—in 3 parts.

Part one imagines what the immigration experience was like in the past, and reads like historical fiction. Part two looks at the ensuing three generations in the present, and reads like a memoir. Part three gleans lessons from the story as a whole for what we can do better in the future.

In the “historical fiction” part, a Sicilian woman named Rose emigrates to the U.S. at the turn of the twentieth century. Knowing no English and illiterate but armed with a moral intelligence, she struggles in this strange world of the free, rubs shoulders with some of the great thinkers of her day, and discusses the nature of education with them. She’s one of the many “prosaic” heroes history books and schools sometimes forget.

In the “memoir” part, Rose’s son Henry, the author’s father, drops out of school in the eighth grade to help his single mom by selling newspapers—he never thought he was smart enough for school anyway. His son Henry Jr. goes all the way in school to obtain a PhD, but struggles to find a voice along the way. Henry Jr.’s son Justin was seemingly born with an expressive “voice,” but in his shuffle to conform to the school system, almost lost it. In these 3 cases, we see 3 types of students who often fail in school in general.

In the final “analysis” part, the book reflects on these “prosaic” cases to understand why so many U.S. students fail. The theme that emerges parallels the traditions of Rousseau, Dewey, and Montessori: students at heart are good and educators are most effective when they treat them as such; students learn best by doing, and this includes moral “doing”; and students become intrinsically motivated to learn if allowed to think critically, creatively, and to find their voices.

If democracy depends on an informed citizenry, the questions this book raises about school failure are critical to the future of our nation . J.A.

About the Author

In 2010, my husband, Henry C Amoroso Jr., a noted literacy advocate and professor, passed away here in Maine. Prior to his death he completed FIGHTING PROSAIC MESSAGES, a personal history and scholarly look at literacy teaching in America. In it, he follows his grandmother’s experience immigrating from Italy to Massachusetts, her own struggles with literacy, the literacy challenges faced by her son, and those faced by our biracial children.

FIGHTING PROSAIC MESSAGES attempts to answer two important questions. What is the nature of failure in America’s educational system? What can we do about it?