How Children Fail by John Holt – published in 1964, but still a very useful read. The whole book is built on observations of what children do to get through what’s asked of them in the typical classroom–often coping strategies rather than real problem solving, and the ways teachers interfere with the process of the development and use of of intelligence in the classroom. Also How Children Learn
How to Survive in Your Own Native Land by James Herndon – I read this a few decades ago, so I can’t give a very good synopsis. I was reminded of it by reading Holt. Herndon taught in low income black neighborhood schools and wrote this description of the craziness brought out by the combination of generations of marginalization and being in a typical public school setting for these kids.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn – she cites her favorites also, which I won’t list here. This is the kind of book of which I want to buy multiple copies, donate it to school libraries, plant it in the cafeteria, then check later to make sure it hasn’t been removed and recycled. I leave it around my house and hope my kids will decide to do what the subtitle suggests: “quit school and get a real life and education.”
The Underground History of American Schooling: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation into the Problem of Modern Schooling by John Taylor Gatto – it’s a wonder that he ever won Teacher of the Year Award, but that must be something independent of politics, because, man! he is a real pill to administrators and politicians! Great bibliography in the back, too. Also A Different Kind of Teacher, Dumbing Us Down
Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich (1971). This is not only a great book, a paradigm-shifting, subversive book. Champions freedom in education. As in people who want to learn, go find a teacher or organize a class, course, school even, but client driven. Teachers are sought out, not given classes full of students who have no choice. Again, read a long time ago–assigned by an Acadia education professor, which is much to his credit.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck- pretentious and inaccurate title (probably the marketing people came up with it), as the idea of a growth mindset, intellectual growth, that is, isn’t new. As my father-in-law says, “You can’t learn any younger!” to each new challenge, and I’m sure he inherited the phrase, and attitude, from his parents. Still, the book provides a good reminder, with lots of supporting evidence, both empirical and anecdotal, of the fact that the more learners young and old believe that intelligence (of any type) is not fixed and that talent, like skill, is mostly a developed trait, the more they learn, grow, and excel. Also provides guidance for teachers and parents in communicating a growth mindset to those in their care and avoiding language and attitudes that set up barriers to the growth mindset.in others. For example, telling children they are smart or talented can backfire, setting up a fear of risk taking for fear of losing the label.
A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education by Mercedes Schneider (2014) – identifies the power players attempting to capitalize on the disruptive corporate-friendly reform of educational policy, leadership, infrastructure, data, and markets.
The Language Wars by Diane Ravitch – uncovers the private policies of textbook publishers who actively self censor content, language, and ideas in order to secure education markets when those markets are controlled by multiple and competing private interests across the liberal-conservative spectrum. Only a few large publishing companies can and are willing to compete to sell material that doesn’t offend anyone, from the Christian right to senior citizens to advocates for people with disabilities to LGBTQ activists and more. Even literature and historical sources are edited for acceptability, provided with corrective commentary, or eliminated, resulting in the predigested pap of the typical school text.