Suzanne Leal

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

of her in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

This is a fas­ci­nat­ing book that, de­spite its ex­ten­sive re­search, is not a dif­fi­cult read. For Clark, it was her daugh­ter’s strug­gle to nav­i­gate the pres­sures of the se­nior years at an Aus­tralian high school that pro­vided the spring­board for a gen­eral cri­tique of the way chil­dren are taught. This is an am­bi­tious goal and, to be hon­est, I ap­proached the book with some scep­ti­cism: would it sim­ply be a fin­ger-point­ing ex­er­cise to ex­plain her daugh­ter’s dif­fi­cul­ties and, in par­tic­u­lar, would it be an ex­cuse to give teach­ers and ed­u­ca­tors yet an­other kick?

It is to Clark’s credit that she pre-empted a scep­tic such as me. In care­ful, ap­peal­ing and ap­proach­able lan­guage, she ex­plains ex­actly why she be­lieves the way we mea­sure suc­cess in ed­u­ca­tion is fun­da­men­tally flawed.

“Come with me,’’ she tells her read­ers, I’ll tell you all about it.”

And she does. She tells me all about it. And just when I feel my­self ran­kle with a silent re­tort to a controversial propo­si­tion, again she pre­empts me with ex­pla­na­tions that are clear and in­formed, as she com­bines facts and fig­ures with anec­dotes and per­sonal asides. ‘‘and Beau­ti­ful Fail­ures: How the Quest for Suc­cess is Harm­ing Our Kids By Lucy Clark Ebury Aus­tralia, 300pp, $34.99

It is a dif­fi­cult task to pro­duce a book that will de­liver at once to read­ers with lit­tle knowl­edge of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem apart from the fact they them­selves once went to school; to the par­ents or sup­port­ers of a child try­ing to man­age the fi­nal years of their ed­u­ca­tion; and also to the in­formed ed­u­ca­tor. As with the best of teach­ers, Clark’s suc­cess lies in her abil­ity to first set down the foun­da­tion of her ar­gu­ment and then steadily build on it so, by the end of the book, the un­in­formed be­come well-in­formed and the well-in­formed even bet­ter in­formed.

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