This Happened in America by Ronald Evans

August 9, 2008

Ron Evans brings one of the giants of American education fully to life in this thoroughly researched and vividly rendered biography. Harold Rugg was a driving force in the progressive schools movement, and the leading figure in the development of social studies as an area to challenge the deadening standardization that characterized the schools of his day. Rugg knew that education could never be neutral, and he fought for a vision of schools as a central force in the reconstruction of society along lines of freedom, participatory democracy, creativity, and justice. Evans captures Rugg in all his three-dimensional and contradictory splendor.


Trusting What You Know by Miriam Raider-Roth

August 2, 2008

So much of what’s wrong in our schools today is simply the ho-hum of common sense and the hum-drum of tradition tooling along mindlessly like a wind-up toy off its leash. Even if the intent was never mean-spirited or vicious, the results may be malevolent, even catastrophic for students and teachers alike. Miriam Raider-Roth recognizes that there’s nothing more dogmatic than common sense, nothing more insistent than tradition, and in Trusting What You Know she asks us to hold our received wisdom as contingent and ready for critical reconsideration.

Raider-Roth beams in, then, on the human relationships at the center of classroom life—students with one another, students with a teacher—and clarifies with laser-like precision the ways in which learning, growth, and the production of knowledge are enacted and embedded within those webs. She rejects the single-minded promotion of autonomy and self-sufficiency as educational goals, and favors, rather, the creation of a classroom culture of trust and on-going participation in community. She dismisses the notion that through education we ought to grow out of relationships toward a higher, individuated self, and illuminates instead a sense of what we might gain if we would embrace the idea of growing into relationships—the recognition that individuality is always an achievement within a social surround.

At once a lively story told in the voices of four animated twelve-year-olds and a conceptual argument challenging central tenets in the canon of teaching, both a handbook for teachers and a philosophical brief, Trusting What You Know will change the way we understand life in classrooms.

With this revolutionary text, Miriam Raider-Roth has produced a masterpiece.


Granny Made Me an Anarchist by Stuart Christie

July 17, 2008

Stuart Christie is the rarest of revolutionaries—a committed freedom fighter and a gentle warrior who can also spin a cracking good yarn. From the working class streets of Glasgow as a wee lad to the gaols of fascist Spain as an 18-year-old anarchist, Christie draws his readers into the thick of things, on the move and on the run. The result is a compelling portrait of both a man and a time.

Granny Made Me an Anarchist picks up where George Orwell left off, in London and Paris and in the fight against fascism. Like Orwell, Christie’s engagements and commitments never overshadow his ongoing search for justice. We feel the thud of the police stick and the searing pain of the interrogation cell, but also the exhilaration of choosing to lead a moral life in a world gone mad, and the power of pursuing a politics based on human freedom rather than power or parties. For anyone troubled by the sorry state of things and searching for her or his own moral compass in the mud and muck of the world as we find it, this is essential reading.


Immigrant Students in Our Public Schools by Laurie Olsen

July 17, 2008

Laurie Olsen has lived her life breaking down the walls of ignorance and borders of fear, fighting for immigrant rights, tolerance, understanding, and unity. More than a portrait of a school, this is a portrait of America.


Taught by America by Sarah Sentilles

July 17, 2008

Taught by America is a book of ‘teachable moments’—those surprising, unanticipated spurts of learning every teacher recognizes as both most authentic and most enduring. Here the most sparkling teachable moments belong to the teacher herself. Powered by idealism, Sarah Sentilles discovers the limits and potential corruption of a savior complex. Struggling to meet the vast needs of her students and their families, she comes to see that an indifferent and hostile system is a form of violence that can undo both good intentions and hard work. Hoping to be of service to the downtrodden, she discovers a deeper and more effective position in solidarity with the oppressed. Sarah Sentilles’s journey contains an injunction: we must change our lives.


Youth Learning… by Leif Gustavson

July 3, 2008

Antonio Gramsci once said that everyone is a philosopher—Leif Gustavson shows us concretely what that might mean. In Youth Learning on Their Own Terms he offers both a compelling critique of the most familiar classroom practices as well as a nuanced and detailed portrait of young people dwelling in possibility, consciously constructing their lives as expressive and adventurous, reflective and meaningful.

Because, he is not an ideologue, Gustavson convincingly explores approaches and approximations rather than laws and causes. Motivation, engagement, sustained attention, standard-setting, self-discipline—Gustavson discovers sites of youth activity where these desirable qualities are assumed, not imposed, spots where young people invent themselves as authors, artists, and activists—as unruly sparks of meaning-making energy on voyages of discovery and surprise rather than either outlaws or raw materials moving along some alien and inhuman assembly line.

A basic and universal human impulse is the desire of leave a footprint in the sand, a cave-painting on the wall—Leif Gustavson helps us re-imagine education as a place where that impulse might become both organizing guide and controlling principle. This is a compelling, an essential book.


Education and the Cold War by Andrew Hartman

July 3, 2008

Anyone who wants to fully understand the failure of American schools to prepare free citizens capable of vigorous participation in a democratic society will find here a complex but accessible map. Andrew Hartman is a wise and sensible guide through the thickets of historical flow, economic structure, political condition and cultural context. An encounter with Education and the Cold War is fortification for the important struggles ahead.


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