Book Review: The Flat World and Education by Linda Darling-Hammond

Book Review: The Flat World and Education by Linda Darling-Hammond

By Timothy Dohrer

Tim Dohrer, director of the Master of Science in Education Program at Northwestern University, reviews a book by Linda Darling-Hammond that concerns issues of equity and education.


Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. New York: Teachers College Press.

This book is really Linda Darling-Hammond’s chance to lay out her deep understanding of equity, poverty, education, and teacher preparation at the start of the 21st Century. She does so with a mountain of stories and statistics about educational history, politics, social policy, and international data about schooling. It is a compelling argument for the United States to finally get serious about ending childhood poverty and real school reform, lest we fall farther and farther behind other nations.

She sets the context by exploring the current state of education in American and around the globe. This includes a healthy discussion of how poverty and inequity affect students, teachers, and schools. She then delves into various other educational initiatives like testing, funding, and school improvement efforts to show how business as usual just will not work in today’s context.

In the final third of the book, Darling-Hammond begins to lay out ways to improve our schools, starting with a long exploration of other countries such as Finland, Sweden, Singapore, and South Korea. These and other countries have implemented major changes in schooling and teacher preparation that have resulted in better performance on international tests such as TIMMS and PISA. She then turns to examples within the United States where school reform is working. Finally, she ends with her recipe for truly changing our school system into an effective one for all kids.

What is this recipe? It includes five key elements:

  • Meaningful learning goals
  • Intelligent, reciprocal accountability systems
  • Equitable and adequate resources
  • Strong professional standards and supports
  • Schools organized for student and teacher learning

With these in place, along with a supportive environment of secure housing, food, health care, and early childhood education, Darling-Hammond imagines a system that educates every young person to be successful in an information-based global society. She also spends time on teacher preparation and development. Teachers are essential to this work and must be prepared and supported.

Darling-Hammond’s wisdom and experience are on display here as is her strong, passionate voice. As a classroom teacher, social scientist, teacher educator, and member of Barack Obama’s Presidential Transition Team, Linda Darling-Hammond has the credentials to trumpet her opinions about the age-old question of how to educate children. We should all take a moment and listen to that voice carefully.

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