Education clearly is a joy for Dr. Robert J. Pellegrini, longtime San Jose State University professor, and author of numerous study guides and books on education and psychology. With Education for the Joy of It: How to Thrive Not Just Survive in High School, College and Beyond, Pellegrini seeks to extend his enthusiasm to all students, with extremely informative, if uneven, results.
Pellegrini’s book grew out of talks, courses, and seminars he’s given over the years. His “Life Construction 101” curriculum may come alive in the classrooms where Pellegrini is most comfortable, but the material is a bit dry and unwelcoming in print, as it is presented here as an academic outline: a lettered, numbered hierarchy of ideas. While the author makes efforts to moderate the academic tone by regularly turning from reporting on research to telling personal stories, he seems most comfortable citing psychological studies. His depth of knowledge is obvious, and the information he’s compiled would be very interesting to teachers, if not necessarily the “at-risk” student population he hopes to attract.
Practical advice for students themselves, tucked away in the middle of the book, reflects Pellegrini’s long experience with the educational system. He effectively breaks down some of the hoops students must jump through, such as essay writing, into manageable chunks. Although he mentions learning differences early on, his advice skews to conventional teaching methods. Similarly, Pellegrini gives brief consideration to the idea that college may not be right for everyone, but he bases his book on the premise that everyone can benefit from higher education.
To be truly accessible to those who need it most, Pellegrini would probably need to reformat his book, avoiding the outline approach and perhaps addressing students directly as “you.” Still, Education for the Joy of It provides a wealth of information. While struggling students may find it daunting, it can certainly guide teachers in their efforts to help these students succeed.