The global education industry is worth roughly $4.4 trillion dollars, with new resources, curriculums, and guides being pushed out into the world each year.
We have "Common Core-aligned" textbooks, behavior management guides, and various "game-changing" resources that promise to give your classroom everything from a stellar new literacy plan to a plethora of fun history prompts for the start of class. In short, there is a lot to read — and a lot of pressure to read it all.
Sometimes, though, it's not the latest or newest resources that can can have the greatest impact on classrooms. Scaling back from the trends and catching up on the historical context behind our education system — as well as the end goal of creating thoughtful, critical thinking human beings — can be just as beneficial.
Below are some of the best texts that deal with education on a macro-level, assessing the state of education and America through a historical lens, as well as texts that provide a different approach to the demands of standard curriculums.
ANALYSIS OF EDUCATION TODAY
1. Ain't No Making It: Aspirations and Attainment in a Low-Income Neighborhood
Author: Jay MacLeod
A bit of an anthropological study, this non-fiction text is a qualitative study looking at the effects of poverty from one generation to the next, specifically dealing with the difficulties in achieving social mobility in America today. MacLeod chronicles life in the Clarendon Heights projects of Somerville, MA, as he follows two different gangs of students: the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers. The Hallway Hangers are predominantly white and push against traditional forms of achievement, ditching school and staying out of the classroom — afraid of failure and, therefore, never trying. The Brothers, on the other hand, are a predominantly African-American group that aspires to rise above their current socioeconomic status.
MacLeod chronicles the groups in 1987 and then returns to them eight years later in 1995 to find out where they ended up. While the results are somewhat difficult to swallow, they point to a reality in America and a reality to keep in mind when in the classroom: overcoming poverty is difficult and can create massive disconnects in what youth believe to be possible.
Read this book if you work in a low-income community and want to get a better understanding of the psychological effects of generational poverty. Any chance you have to better understand where your students are coming from is a plus, and this book provides insight into the systemic inequality that encapsulates a massive, but under-represented, portion of American life.
2. "Multiplication Is for White People": Raising Expectations for Other People's Children
Author: Lisa Delpit
Delpit, who is a MacArthur Award recipient, follows up her last book Other People's Children with this analysis of the achievement gap and why the current Education Reform game plan doesn't seem to be producing its intended results. Delpit touches on various reform hot topics — No Child Left Behind, standardized testing, charter schools, and Teach for America — as she questions why gaps exist despite the fact that all students, regardless of race, are born with the same academic potential. For Delpit, the answer is expectations, and she encourages educators and those involved in schools to remember education is for everyone.
Read this book if you are an educator curious about the current reforms spreading across our nation and how they have affected student achievement. This book deals with the failure of public education for economically disadvantaged students of color and why holding all students to a high expectation is a must in changing the current trajectory.
3. Rethinking Mathematics
Authors: Eric Gutstein and Bob Peterson
This 2005 book encourages educators — specifically math teachers — to think of math instruction through the lens of social justice and real world experiences. While the text does not actually delve into complicated math formulas, it can be used as a supplemental text to get teachers thinking about the ways in which they teach and how to ensure components of their lessons maintain real-world applications.
Read this book if you are a math teacher and want to expand the ways in which you present formulas and lessons. NOTE, however, that this book is not meant to be used as your core curriculum. It has received slack from critics who feel it is more of a social studies book than a math book, but with that in mind, math teachers should use the book to get the juices flowing for ways to strengthen the context of their lessons. Perhaps each week, you choose a different issue to relate your lesson to. Or create an extra credit assignment based on math in the real world.
4. Teaching for Joy and Justice: Re-Imagining the Language Arts Classroom
Author: Linda Christensen
This is a follow up to Christensen's popular first book, Reading, Writing, and Rising Up. In Justice and Joy, the veteran teacher discusses ways in which she has helped students pull from their personal experiences to create rigorous and critically aware essays, poetry and narratives. For teachers looking for a more "How To" type of text, this book gives step-by-step recommendations for pushing students both as writers and as human beings. The topics covered in Christensen's units range from race to class, language to gender — in other words, all of the topics middle and high school students feel both compelled and curious to talk about.
Read this book if you are a middle or high school English language arts teacher who is looking for specific teaching approaches that will not only make your students want to write, but feel confident that they have something important to say.