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Thursday, March 15, 2012

George Washington Carver: A Book Review

So, I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and I thought to myself, 'Hey, George Washington Carver is one of the guys suggested for a biography option in AOy5, this'll be great!'

I especially thought it'd be great because though my kids have, I had never before read a biography of George Washington Carver. I've always wondered about him. All I knew was that he is always especially associated with peanuts. :) Well, what a guy! He's so much more interesting than just some guy who came up with some 300 peanut purposes! Though that in itself is AMAZING. Seriously, 300?! That is remarkable. Born a slave, he was a God-fearing, nature loving, creative mind who became world famous for his inventive intuitive discoveries. Without studying education that I know of, he upheld many principles of education that I myself treasure. I love this guy!

As impressed as I am with George Washington Carver, this isn't a review of George Washington Carver, but of a book about him, so I'll get on with the review. Yes, you're welcome. :)

I'm honestly not sure exactly what engaged me about the book, George Washington Carver, by John Perry. I flew right through it. It could be because I was bedridden and bored, or because GWC had a most inspiring life. It could be because it was really well written. I still can't put my finger on it. I know the language must have been adequately arranged because I certainly didn't trip over it.

Overall, I felt that the author did a good job of providing a well-balanced overview of GWC's life. He touches on the early years just enough to give a good background, then steps carefully through his wandering and then preparation years, before he settles into expounding his later productive years. It was evident that the author's intent was to reveal the motivations of George Washington Carver instead of backing any special interests he might have had. Though obviously an important figure with great contributions during a critical time in our country's history, the author didn't fail to point out some of his shortcomings as well. I feel that the author did a good job of showing a balanced view as he attempted to highlight the person behind the peanut.

Does it achieve Living Book status? The book boasts pretty simple, easy-to-read language, and holds your attention well. Regardless of my rating in this category, I think Carver would have approved the value of Living Books and certainly other other principles treasured by our beloved Charlotte Mason.
Here are a couple excerpts to whet your appetite for the book:

"Students liked him because he encouraged them to explore and learn from experience rather than getting their learning from the textbook."

"His life revolved around scientific study and research, painting and drawing, music, refined conversation, and the joy of learning for learning's sake."

"Carver believed that direct observation and hands-on experience were essential to learning. He also believed that students learned about botany by studying other subjects, some of which seemed completely unrelated to plants. Carver often brought plant samples or results of his experiments into the classroom. Rather than using textbooks, he emphasized seeing and examining plants. Rather than telling his students a set of facts, he had them derive the facts for themselves. He wasn't there to spoon-feed his students, but rather to encourage and guide them on their own journeys of discovery. In an introduction booklet published at Tuskegee in 1902, Carver wrote that
'every teacher should realize that a very large proportion of every student's work must lie outside the classroom... The study of Nature is both entertaining and instructive, and it is the only true method that leads up to a clear understanding of the great natural principles which surround every branch of business in which we may engage. Aside from this, it encourages investigation and stimulates originality.'
In another brochure he added that the
'thoughtful educator... also understands that the most effective and lasting education is the one that makes the pupil handle, discuss and familiarize himself with real things about him, of which the majority are surprisingly ignorant.'
So. In summary, would I read the book again?! You betcha. And now that I have it in our library, I'll also have my up-and-comings try it on for size too!

I review for BookSneeze®

1 comment:

walking said...

I didn't realize John Perry wrote a biography exclusively about George Washington Carver. A few years back, my son and I read Unshakeable Faith which profiled Booker T. Washington and Carver together. Then, on a trip to Louisiana, we went to Tuskegee and saw different exhibits about both men. Fascinating how God placed two completely different men together like that.

Maybe this might be a good one for Pamela and I to read next year.

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