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Unlearning the Ropes: The Benefits of Rethinking What School Teaches You


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Denise M. Bressler provides valuable insight into why current schools are more cages for knowledge than places to grow and build it.

I will preface this review by claiming a certain amount of bias due to my own experiences teaching within the current education system. Having the unique perspective of working at both ends of the K-12 spectrum, the stark situation portrayed in Unlearning the Ropes: The Benefits of Rethinking What Schools Teach You is a very real one. But it's not a new situation, not to those who have spent any amount of time in education in recent years. What is new here though is Denise Bressler's hope that we can do better infusing every page.

There is an extensive amount of literature out there on education, and I've devoured a large swath of it both for required reading by employers or for exploration on my own. Some focus way too heavily on telling me what they can do for me that they never actually do anything for me. Others might not explicitly say it, but basically have the mentality that you should just give up because things are too broken to fix. The worst though (and are strangely enough the ones I'm usually forced to read) combine an almost elitist attitude with extremely specific action steps that could only be useful in idyllic situations.

So you can imagine how refreshing it was to read a book on education that didn't have any of these types of pitfalls. The author does include quite a few anecdotal pieces of evidence and describes their own experiences. But these are always used in a way to enhance either the points being made or to keep the readers engaged. Additionally, the classrooms and students described aren't all homogenous and belonging to something outside of an actual sense of reality. And the tone makes the material both approachable and accessible as well.

Well before I ever decided to become a teacher, I was a child listening to Harry Chapin with my father. One of his songs, 'Flowers Are Red' still sticks with me today about a little boy who slowly has his creativity bled dry. While I don't think anyone in the field wants to be compared to the first teacher in that song over the second, it's largely how our current system is. But perhaps with a little rethinking, and a little reframing, we can stop forcing our young people's minds into boxes, and the same-sized ones at that. I highly recommend reading Unlearning the Ropes if you are in education, work with any youth, or have children of your own. 

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About the author

Dr. Denise Bressler is a speaker, author, and researcher with a passion for helping people rediscover the excitement of learning. In her free time, you may find Denise snowboarding or playing with a jigsaw puzzle. You will always find her with a cup of coffee and eager to learn something new. view profile

Published on November 18, 2021

Published by DIO Press

70000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Education & Reference

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