Brave New Schools: Challenging Cultural Illiteracy through Global Learning Networks


374 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7744-0432-2
DDC 370.11'5





Reviewed by Sheree Haughian

Sheree Haughian is an elementary-school teacher-librarian with the
Dufferin County Board of Education.


Authors Cummins and Sayers borrow from Huxley’s nightmarish vision of
the future in the title of this book, which celebrates the potential of
global telecommunication in education. The author of Brave New World
warned against the perils of indoctrination, of rote learning without
questioning or understanding. The educators who created this work see
certain frightening parallels in the neoconservative back-to-the-basics
movement, which demands “functional literacy” (the bits-and-pieces
approach to language and learning) at the expense of “critical
literacy” (the habit of mind that involves the ability to perceive,
analyze, and, when necessary, transform the erroneous notions of the
status quo). Although this book is published by the Ontario Institute
for Studies in Education, the situations portrayed generally come from
south of the border. As Canadian education reels from successive blows
from the right, the American educational context seems less foreign than
it might have a decade ago, and the study’s political voice is
deserving of a serious audience.

Nevertheless, it may be somewhat hopeful to suggest that inequities can
be washed away by the clever use of the Internet. While the global
classroom connections cited here are testimonies to tolerance,
understanding, and a new era in cultural literacy, they may not be for
classrooms in all communities to replicate. The extensive list of K–12
Internet resources for parents and teachers points to the difficulty.
Wealthier individuals have access; others do not. While the mandate of
public education is to provide a certain standard of resource equity, it
does not always succeed in doing so. Government funding may allow for a
somewhat equitable distribution of ROM and RAM, but levels of technical
support (the unacknowledged and essentially unfunded human factor) often
make the difference between networks that click and those that cluck. As
well, there is no doubt that students from homes where computer and
critical literacy already exists have a significant edge, tending to
take ownership and leadership while at school. Is it the challenge of
the “brave new schools” of the future to correct this intrinsic
social inequity? A formidable task.


Cummins, Jim, and Dennis Sayers., “Brave New Schools: Challenging Cultural Illiteracy through Global Learning Networks,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,