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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 1, 2004

Alternative School Students Illustrate Textbook On Work, Education

Young artists don't typically have a lot of places to show off their work: school bulletin boards, occasional student art shows and maybe the refrigerator at home.

So when University of Iowa education professor David Bills asked students of an Iowa City high school to help illustrate his latest textbook, they jumped at the chance. As a result, each of the nine chapters that make up "The Sociology of Education at Work" features unique drawings by five students at the Senior High Alternative Center.

Published this month, "The Sociology of Education at Work" is described by publisher Blackwell Publishing as a "clear and engaging study of the links between schooling and the workplace in modern society. It explains, in accessible and lively prose, how these links have developed over time, what broad social trends are transforming them now, and offers some empirically based projections about how these relationships are likely to develop in the future."

The textbook examines links between schooling and the modern workplace, from a sociological perspective; combines and analyzes theory and studies in the sociology of education and the sociology of work; and includes case studies to illustrate conclusions drawn from a combined study of education and work.

Bills, associate professor in the UI College of Education's Planning, Policy and Leadership Studies Department, said that he knew Hani Elkadi, lead art, health and science teacher at the high school, and had been impressed with some of the artwork generated in the past by Elkadi's students. So Bills gave the students descriptions of the chapters and asked that they illustrate the themes in whatever way they saw fit.

"We have always had very talented young people," Elkadi said. "Our program in particular pioneered most of the public artwork in Iowa City. Every kind of public art project in town, our kids participate fully, whether it's the Children's Museum of Iowa City, the Johnson County Historical Society, the Robert Lee Recreation Center, the Public TV building. All have murals done by our students. The point is that we like to promote the idea of students' connections to the community -- helping with their talents and their abilities."

Student artist Riley McCusker illustrated the first chapter, "Education and Work: Establishing Some Terrain," with a motif of a classic scale in perfect balance, the left tray holding an SUV (to represent work) and the right tray holding a diploma.

For Chapter 8, "The Possibilities of a Learning Society," Megan Bishop drew what at first glance looks like a woman walking along a path, past flowers and telephone lines. But closer examination reveals that from the neck down the woman's anatomy is visible, including organs, bone and muscle. And what at first appear to be telephone poles and tree trunks are in fact paint brushes and pencils, a white cloud rains alphabet letters, musical notations glide along the telephone wires and a flower springing up from the earth has tiny scientific notations and measurements.

Megan says the illustration for Chapter 8 is actually part of a larger piece she produced for the book. Other parts of the larger illustration serve as motifs for Chapters 6, "Demographic Booms And Busts, Aging, And The New Cultural Diversity: Demographic Perspective On Education And Work," and Chapter 9, "The Future Of Education And Work: Conclusion: Education And Work In The 'New Modern Times'".

"When you think of learning, you don't think of it as fun," said Megan, who has entered a number of art shows and has produced an entire wall mural at Uptown Bill's Small Mall in Iowa City. "But I'm extremely interested in anatomy and biology. I was trying to show all the different aspects of learning. It's not just math and science -- it's art and it's music and it's so many other things. I was just trying to incorporate it all into one picture."

She said getting to contribute some of her artwork to the textbook was a great opportunity.

"With other books, you have the choice to read it or not," she said. "With a textbook, you have no choice. It's a definite way to get people to look at my art. I loved the experience. This was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me."

The other students who contributed artwork to the book were Andrew Bennett, Kyle Bingham, and Melissa Carlson.

Bills said he's extremely pleased with the collaboration's results.

"I described to the students what I wanted to accomplish with each chapter and was stunned with the creativity and insight with which they responded," Bills said in the book's acknowledgments.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Media: Stephen Pradarelli, 319-384-0007,