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Review of Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students


Review of Ron Berger’s An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students

Review by Clare Vogel

“Work of excellence is transformational. Once a student sees that he or she is capable of excellence, that student is never quite the same. There is a new self-image, a new notion of possibilities. There is an appetite for excellence.” This is a culture Ron Berger not only promotes for his students, but also insists on in his work as an educator, carpenter and consultant. His book “An Ethic of Excellence” encapsulates this message in a phenomenally quick page-turner. Every one of the 150 pages is packed with creativity and inspiration.
Berger’s experiences in poorly maintained schools are all too familiar for many people. “When kids walk into run-down, ugly buildings constructed as cheaply as possible and often falling apart, what message do these children get? We don’t care about you. We don’t value you. We don’t expect much of you.”
This teacher, on the other hand, doesn’t give his students a chance to doubt his devotion to each and every one of them. Dozens of wildly imaginative projects are laid out for readers in eloquent stage-by-stage descriptions. From kindergarteners annotating extensive lists of snail preferences…that’s right, snails, to fifth and sixth graders performing radon testing for the entire community, his energy, ingenuity and commitment is at first difficult to grapple with.
Berger’s level of respect for children and teachers may be a rarity in American public schools today, but for him, “anything short of excellence would be intolerable.”

“Found myself saying amen! AMEN! The author is not only a master teacher, but a master story teller.”
- Eeva Reeder, Learning By Doing

“…an important book for our time, for teachers, teacher educators, and policymakers.”
- Ann Lieberman, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

“Ron Berger’s authentic standards bear little resemblance to what passes for standards in today’s test-obsessed America. For a reminder of what education can and should be, read this passionate book – and give it to every policymaker whom you know.”
- Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education

November 19th, 2008

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