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Communication & Media

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Journalism professor publishes 12th book


NEW PALTZ -- Howard Good, a veteran journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz, has recently published his 12th book, titled “Mis-Education in Schools: Beyond the Slogans and Double-Talk.” Using both scholarly research and personal anecdotes, Good delves into what he sees as the key problems facing American high schools and suggests solutions.

In his book Good, a former president of the Highland school board, attacks a school system that is more concerned with high test scores and placement exams than real education. “Unless we start turning out the kind of people who know what truly counts in life,” writes Good, “it won’t much matter who wins the world title in math.”

What truly counts, according to Good, is not getting attention in American high schools. Underpaid, overworked teachers struggle to make a start, and a large majority of them leave the profession after a matter of years, he writes. New teachers are generally assigned the most difficult children, and bombarded with extra duties above and beyond teaching in the classroom, Good notes. Sometimes the subject that they are paid to teach is not within their area of expertise.

Good questions why teachers receive such shoddy treatment in American schools today. “The truth is,” Good writes, “many people don’t see teaching as real work like, say, polluting the environment or raiding the stock market.”

Teachers are not the only ones facing unrealistic expectations. For example, in schools across the nation, students are being asked to sign a code of ethics in order to participate on sports teams. Signing this pledge means that the students agree not to smoke tobacco, take drugs or drink alcohol, a promise which Good says very few students actually keep. He points out that in reality, forcing them to sign this pledge may actually teach them to take promises lightly.

“I’m simply pointing out that forcing student athletes to make false promises can breed a certain cynicism toward promise keeping,” Good explains, “which, in the long run, may harm them (and society) more than experimenting with alcohol, tobacco or even drugs.”

In the wake of 9/11, Good finds that schools have become increasingly focused on emphasizing patriotism in their curriculum. Good outlines a recent bill defeated in the Nebraska state legislature that would have required each school board to appoint a committee to arrange curriculum in such a way that “the love of America will be installed in the hearts and minds of the youth of the state.” This would include memorizing The Star Spangled Banner and teaching reverence for the flag.

“I think we need a redefinition of patriotism,” Good said. “We need to give each citizen the rights and moral tools to question authority and decide public issues for themselves.”

The book includes accounts of Good’s own experiences with school boards, educators and administrators of local high schools. He recounts several of his struggles with his daughter’s high school in Highland, N.Y. He believes schools would prefer parental compliance to parental involvement, and describes feeling “as welcome as a skinhead at a synagogue” when he has questioned his children’s education.

Despite the problems of education, Good finds hope in teaching. “Despite all the drawbacks—lack of respect, lack of autonomy, poor salaries and working conditions—there are people who will rise above to care for and educate our children,” Good says, “surviving in spite of the system, not because of it.”

David A. Singer, president of the Board of Education in Harrison, N.Y., comments that Good “writes passionately about the world of education…from the perspective of a student, teacher, school board member and dad.”

Good has taught at SUNY New Paltz since 1985. He teaches news writing, literary journalism, media ethics and press history.

Good has written 11 previous books dealing with both journalism and education. Some of Good's previous books include “Desperately Seeking Ethics”, “Diamonds in the Dark: America, Baseball, and the Movies”, and “Outcasts: The Image of Journalists in Contemporary Film.”

Good received his undergraduate degree in English from Bard College, a master's degree in journalism from the University of Iowa, and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan. He currently lives in Highland with his wife, Barbara. They have four children.