Books, books and more great books!

Dear friends and colleagues,

I regularly like to promote some favorite books of mine here.

This time let me introduce you to a few of quite a lot of interesting books that have been published lately about schooling and a few that I just recently read but were published some time ago.

Two are close to home and include a chapter by me!

Meier

Teaching in Themes, edited by Deborah Meier, Matthew Knoester and Katherine Clunis D’Andrea

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The Teacher You Want To Be, edited by Ellin Keene and Matt Glover.

Then…

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Public School Choice vs Private School Vouchers, edited by Richard Kahlenberg was published in 2003 but it’s definitely worth reading as we move toward voucherization.

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Fearless Teaching, by Stuart Grauer. Accounts of very different approaches to schooling and teaching. You know, for sure, that he’s a teacher by what and how he put this book together.

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We Don’t Need Another Hero, by Gregory Michie.  Exactly my point. Chapter 13 is entitled, “Race to the Top of What? “  Maybe democracy?

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You might follow it up with an oldie (2007), Democratic Schools edited by Michael Apple and James Beane—which includes an essay by me and Paul Schwarz.

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Schooling Beyond Measure, by Alfie Kohn is a new and precious collection of his current topic I enjoy thinking about.

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Taking Back Childhood, by Nancy Carlsson-Paige has been reissued. It first came out in 2008 and remains a classic—especially designed for parents.

Diamond

Teaching Kindergarten by Julie Diamond, Betsy Grob and Fretta Reitzes,  A collection of essays by folks who know what they are talking about, including a Mission Hill teacher (Kathy Clunis DAndrea) and a forward by Vivian Paley and Prologue by Ruth Charney.

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While you’re at it read Kinderarten by Julie Diamond about a year of learning—for both Julie and her students.

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Making Space for Active Learning: the art and practice of teaching edited by Anne Martin and Ellen Schwartz with a foreword by Helen Featherstone.  Those names should be enough to  catch your attention and each essay is by a teacher I know and admire.

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Sketches in Democracy by Lisa DeLorenzo.  He is a music teacher and this book is a treasure; about the role of music in our school lives—or what it can be.

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Squandering America’s Future, by Susan Ochsborn is a telling story about the historic changes in the way we view children and how it’s hurting us today.

ENOUGH!  I’ll get back to this because I have a bunch of other books on the chair besides me that I want everyone to read.

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More Books: Bloodletting, Citizen, Wow, and More than a Score

Books by teachers keep pouring in. Here are a few.

Bloodletting

Bloodletting, by David Ellison compared the latest “cures” to the cure-all for all medical problems of the 19th century (bloodletting). He goes through all the regular cures, diagnoses what is behind them and then offers his “2% solution”—which he argues requires a revolution. I fear he may get his wish for the latter, but not for what he is wishing for. A good read.

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The WOW Factor by Julie Roberts is a chronicle of her first 8 years in the field of education . I would give it to my granddaughter who is in year one except that…it might discourage her. But Roberts ends on a high note.

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What Kind of Citizen? Educating Our Children for the Common Good, by Joel Westheimer. He’s on my side—well, 90%. Myths can have a powerful positive influence, he argues, but we are facing seven that now impede progress. Joel’s critique of one such myths, schools must be sites of democracy is what accounts for it not being 100%. A must read.

MorethanScore

More Than a Score, The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing, is edited by Jesse Hagopian. I have not read all the essays, but they include Karen Lewis, Nancy Carlson-Paige, Monty Neil and many more good thinkers including interviews with Carol Burris and Phyllis Tashlik. It is an antidote to my pessimism! Hurrah.

Reading these books reminds me how quickly we forget our own roots. It is time for the thousands of teachers, principals and citizens who were influenced by Ted Sizer and his fictional teacher Horace to mention his work—which took so many different forms. He was that very special combination of scholar, teacher, teacher educator, innovator, organizer, gatherer of ideas and people, and more. Let’s all go back and read Horace’s Compromise and remind ourselves of why it set off a firestorm of imitators—and some detractors—and produced an organization (The Coalition of Essential Schools) that at its peak had more than a thousand mostly public school members—reminder, schools not individuals. The ten principles he set forth cover the ground and the way he brings them to life in his books, speeches and conversations uncover the heart of his message. I wish he were here to help us today, but we can still listen to his words with care and imagine what he would say to our triumphs and our defeats. P.sS Join the Coalition—our prices have come down. (info@EssentialSchools.org

Books: Loving Learning and An Empty Seat in Class

I just finished two books that I want everyone to read.  I can’t tell whether they speak “especially” to me, but try them.

LovingLearning

Loving Learning is written by Tom Little and Katherine Ellison and was published in 2015.  The dual authorship is probably a reflection of the fact that Tom died in 2013.  One additional reason for my loving it is that Mission Hill and Deborah Meier play a role in it.  It is a story of Tom’s trip across America to visit 43 self-proclaimed and some not proclaimed progressive schools after 27 years as head of an Oakland independent/private school.  He was also one of the founders of the Progressive Education Network (which meets annually–this year in NYC in the fall).

Emptyseat

An Empty Seat in Class, by Rick Ayers is about teaching, of course, but the focus is on the impact of a student’s death and other traumas on all those around them.  While that is the focus but actually it isn’t quite the heart of the book.  I also recommend it for its description of what it is like to be fully committed to being a teacher.  (Yes, he’s Bill’s brother—but don’t let that be the reason to read or not read it!).

The End of the Rainbow

Readers.

I am underlining virtually everything in this new book I just got sent from the publisher (New Press), The End of the Rainbow: How Educating for Happiness (Not Money) Would Transform Our Schools.  It is by another friend, Susan Engel.

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It says it all. Including a wonderful and rare to find chapter on alternative approaches to what and how to measure success. It is rare because Susan defines well-being, happiness, and leading a good life as at the core of what a good education should help lead us to. She describes how, historically, we got to viewing education as a road to making more money—which, she argues, is a recent phenomenon! It is not often enough that I get a truly new idea—but I found this fascinating. Her “hard” data about the relationship between money and happiness is also intriguing and worth a pause as we are consumed by the hyper-materialism of our time and place. She provides a different framework for rethinking these ideas.

It is a gem of a book. Susan has so many good anecdotes to demonstrate her points, based on her many years of work as a teacher of teachers, time spent in school, and in raising children. Order it today!!!

-Deb

A Bitter Sweet Season

A Bitter Sweet Season
by Jane Gross
Knopf

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I just finished rereading a book I avoided taking seriously four years ago when it was first published—because it’s about dying. It is written from the viewpoint of the daughter caring for her aged mother, but….  It is as useful for the reverse. I literally could not put it down unless sleep overcame me. It is also a useful reminder for me of how to combine the personal and the how-to. I am trying, just beginning, to do something like that regarding caring about schooling. So what? Jane’s book left me feeling much better, actually, about the fact that I will, indubitably, die some day. I can see how it might be done.

As a child and in the early years of my adulthood I had incredibly strong fears about “not being.” I had a special friend who would call me or I would call her when overcome by one of these panics. It has somehow almost entirely dissipated—even before reading Jane Gross’ account. So, maybe avoid this book until you come to that stage. It’s author is a good friend who I spent many hours with in the course of this tale.  She wrote for the New York Times for many, many years and initiated and continues to blog as The New Old Age . And for Yankee fans my age, she is also the daughter of the NY Sports Columnist we read regularly in our youth.

Thanks, Jane.

Deb

Two books that provoke

Dear readers,

I haven’t kept up on all the books that are being written about our concerns. Including, and this is new, lots by working teachers as well as recently working teachers. It is hard to do both at the same time—be a full time teacher and find the time to write a book! A friend of mine, Vanessa Rodriguez, a teacher I met first in her classroom, for example, has taken off a few years to further her own education and to write a book. The book, The Teaching Brain: The Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education, is an example.

rodriguezI am known as a skeptic about brain research as a useful field for improving good teaching/learning. But Vanessa has taken the field more seriously, and used some of these insights into exploring the field she knows best—over many years. Of course, the “teaching brain” and the “learner brain” are not separate. But then nothing in the brain is disconnected from any other part of the brain—or really the body either. She uses the topic, instead, to explore her own and others in practice—how our awareness of our own selves as teachers (and we all are, at times) is the kind of “brain research” I appreciate. I think others will find this as interesting a read as I have. (It is a New Press publication; and just out.)

I also have not kept up with talking about a man whose been real hero and model in my life. That man, John Goodlad, has died. The summer before I starting CPESS—a public secondary school in Harlem—I holed myself up on Block Island, near my friend Brenda Engel, to read. I read Seymour Sarason (on why all reforms had failed) and John Goodlad (on the large picture of America’s schools). I do not usually take notes, but I did this time. I soaked up what they said and hoped that their wisdom would help me get through the next few years. Goodlad’s book, The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling is written a decade later, steeled me for the next episode of educational history. It is a collection around the topic I am most concerned about. John and co-editor Timothy McMannon, picked six wonderful authors for the task, with a wonderful final chapter by John. Read him—start anywhere among his 30 plus books.

I will share more books in the future. I am meanwhile trying to write one myself. HELP!!!!

Deb

The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling

Dear readers,

I just finished a book published in 1997 edited by John Goodlad and Timothy McMannon. I could quote every page. But… Read it! Title: The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling, Jossey Bass Publishers. Especially Parts Two and Three which are a dialogue between some wonderful and thoughtful participants. (Part I consists of six essays by some of the distinguished crew.) Who? Benjamin Barber, Theodore Sizer, Linda Darling-Hammond, Gary Fenstermacher, Dona Kerr and Roger Soder. The second conversation included as well Don Ernst, Mary Ellen Finch, Susan Ropert and Mark OShea

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These conversations came right at that height of the onslaught of the “new reformers” which wiped out so much of the work described here by Goodlad and Sizer’s —NNER and CES. Their optimism about the work they were doing was hard for me to read—knowing as I did the future. Sobering. But my “half-full” brother’s advice reminds me that the NYC Consortium, for example, that is still growing has made Sizer’s work on graduation by exhibition, and the portfolio et al. respectable despite what has happened sicne. And the strength of the growing opposition to tests, the Common Core and maybe privatization as well, is something both men can take some credit for too. It is not always uphill, but the rate of change for the worse can be slowed and the onset of the next wave of reform—ours—can be encouraged.

One theme that comes up often in the conversations among the participants is: in what areas of life we are prepared to “waste” money and on which do we become rather puritanical. Some rich friends tell me that indeed they appreciate their ability to have the best of everything—including the arts and physical education—but that still these aren’t “essential” and require reducing in difficult fiscal times. “There’s just not enough money” for everything (except when we go to war, add money to the Pentagon’s budget above and beyond what they request, look for more adventures into the heavens above, et al.)

Donna Kerr’s suggestion of what might be the central question, “How is it we want ourselves to stand in relationship to one another,” struck home.

Linda Darling-Hammond states the tough truth: “Within the democratic society, schools may conduct themselves as the least democratic institutions… predominantly authoritarian institutions.” The question to ask is not, she says, so much building education “for democracy but schooling as democracy.”

Benjamin Barber reminds us of necessary differences between “family” discourse and public discourse, and the role of schools in keeping this distinction alive. He pushes hard and provokes some of the strongest parts of the discourse.

It has been almost 20 years since these discussions took place, but it is now on my must read list. Maybe it can be read aloud like a play in schools or public events!!! (Note though that—I think—all the participants except Linda Darling-Hammond are White.)