Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Education Book Do You Want Obama to Read?

Picking up a meme from

What one book on education do you think Obama should read?

Kozol's Savage Inequalities is an easy out, but probably doesn't get at what I'd really like him to know that he doesn't already know.

Consider readability, clarity of the argument made, etc. He's not a scholar, he's a busy candidate (or, likely, president). Please explain why you arrived at this choice. Entries will be judged by the coherence of their justifications :).

I have to think about this myself.


Craig A. Cunningham said...

My first thought was a really interesting book by Gene Glass called Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips: The Fate of Public Education in America, because of its far-reaching implications for the long-term development of our society.

Buy the book here

(By the way, I saw Gene at AERA in NYC this past April....he recognized me (i was flattered) and said he's a regular reader of our blog (I was thrilled)!

Justification? There are some very very challenging educational policy issues facing the United States that the next president MUST understand, and be ready to confront. These issues aren't "pedagogical," or having to do with "accountability" or even with funding; these are huge demographic shifts that will change the nature of the problem of socializing young people into our changing society. I'd say, most foundations professors don't understand these issues very well, either.

But then, I thought, how boringly contemporary! How about a FOUNDATIONS book?!??!?


Either Rousseau's Emile or John Locke's Some Thoughts Concerning Education? It would be great for him to read BOTH books, and engage in a dialog with an educational philosopher/historian about the significant differences between the two and what the implications might be for contemporary educational policy.

A. G. Rud said...

I read Gene Glass's book in manuscript and it is prescient and far-reaching. In his usually insightful way, Craig has hit the nail on the head: The huge changes that are upon us are beyond the issues of pedagogy and "schooling," and Gene's book shows that.

If we wanted to stay with the smart tomes put out by Information Age Publishing, I would vote to add Sherman Dorn's Accountability Frankenstein to Barack's bookbag.

philip said...

While I disagree with the author on some points, I just finished reading our very own Sherman Dorn's Accountability Frankenstein, and I'd put it in Obama's hands given the chance.

It is not tepid, insufficient, or watered-down Dr. Dorn. Quite frankly, it is approachable in that it doesn't bog the reader down with jargon and it calmly presents a solid case for formative evaluation, which is the direction I would love to see our schools move in.

While I think accountability is a word that should be replaced with transparency and responsibility, I never thought the change was going to take place overnight. Rather, it's going to take a number of approaches, at different pitches, aimed at various interest groups, to tame the monster...

Importantly, this book calmly examines the history of testing, contextualizing it for policy makers who are probably not familiar with how we ended up where we are, and importantly, the text concludes with a number of positive, exciting, and achievable (given a president and Congress willing to support innovation and change) alternatives.

I'd be happy with almost all of the approaches on pages 153-157. "Arguing from portfolios", "one challenge every decade", "site visits", and "locally-crafted assessment" would all be a better alternatives to what we have now.

Two small complaints Dr. Dorn:

1. I do not think accountability has no place in schooling, as you suggest in the closing of the book. Recall from the introduction of the petition: "We do so not because we resist accountability..."

2. It is not "my" petition. I was simply the person who moderated the online debate as 35 of us argued, endlessly, over the wording. I had to put a name on it when posting.

I regret that it took me so long to get to the book, but I'm sure you all have stacks of unread materials that contain "must reads." Obama could probably take this down in a day...should I send him a copy?

...i was very tempted to post this as anonymous...but didn't want him/her to receive the credit ;)

Nancy Flanagan said...

My suggestion would be "Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement" (Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider). For several reasons:

The material is well-researched and takes a clear, scholarly approach to the idea of trust as linchpin for genuine reform, measuring progress in multiple and authentic ways. The book illuminates the role of social capital and personal relationships using both qualitative and quantitative data gathered over time and solid research methodologies.

The case studies are set in the Chicago Public Schools--a context where Obama has some investment and experience--and illustrate the importance of human interaction, using data that strongly supports the concept that you can't just dish out content (even via "managed instruction") and have a lasting impact on kids, schools and communities.

My subsidiary picks would be "The Power of Their Ideas" (Meier) just because it's an inspiring read, or even "Schoolteacher" (Lortie)--but that would be a better pick for other politicians, perhaps those who believe that getting the "right" people in the classroom will fix the system.

Ryan said...

The recent Kahlenberg book on Shanker gives a great perspective on how we got to where we are today, union-wise, and "What Works in Schools" is a great guide to where we need to go.

Sherman Dorn said...

In my accounting, it's a good day when someone wants to put my and Gene's books in the hands of Senator Obama, and when I also get thoughtful dissent from Philip Kovacs (here) and Deborah Meier (in comments on my own blog).

From what I know, Obama would be more interested in the political complexities than in other types of education research or books: DeBray-Pelot, McGuinn, and Manna all have written very good political-science books on NCLB, and there's also Hochschild and Scovronick's 2003 book. Or maybe David Labaree's How To Succeed in School without Really Learning. I suspect he'd be more interested in chewing on the ideas in those books than in others that I've enjoyed in the past few years. Maybe Kathryn Neckerman's Schools Betrayed since that's about Chicago. Or some of the chapters in the recent book coedited by Carl Kaestle.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Regarding Nancy's suggestion that we give Barack Bryk and Schneider's book on Trust....I agree that this particular book is one of the most important EMPIRICAL books to emerge in recent years about what works in schools and what doesn't. Bryk (who was my advisor at Chicago for about 6 months until I realized he was too busy to be an attentive advisor, and who, by the way, just recently took over from Lee Schulman at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) is especially gifted at using quantitative methods to get at complex social phenomena, and he and Scheider use their data to tease out an incredibly rich and surprisingly practical set of suggestions for improving schools.

However, I would think Obama would need a "big picture" on educational issues, rather than a look within schools, at school improvement. He's not, after all, going to be hiring teachers or setting policies within school buildings. Let's do make sure that his Education Secretary is more than familiar with Bryk's book.

This leads to another interesting thought provoker: who would you like to see as Obama's Education Secretary? I nominate one of the conveners of The Forum for Education and Democracy: Angela Valenzuela would be an obvious choice, or Linda Darling-Hammond (talk about a change in federal policy!!!) or (if he's covering his diversity requirements with other appointments) George Wood or Carl Glickman.

Anonymous said...

Considering that Mr Obama is an African-American, a lawyer and a professor of law with particular interests in civil rights law, and an elected official, it is likely that many of the individuals suggested could learn more from him about education than he can learn from them.

Anonymous said...

It's not a book, but I would suggest to President Obama watching "How Difficult Can This Be? F.A.T. City--A Learning Disabilities Workshop" by Rick Lavoie. He mentions in the that a bank asked him for permission to use this video in teller training because it's about basic human interactions and treating each other with respect.

Anonymous said...