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9 Books Subversive Teachers Must Read

 

If you are a responsible subversive teacher like me, you know well how hard it is to swim against the torrential current of institutional school systems backed up by business models, oblivious educators, and short-gain parents. Yet, you are not alone, many other educators have had the same ordeals, and they still do because it is a never ending battle of the enlightened minds. Below are 9 books written by, more of less, such responsible subversive educators for educators and parents. The books are not in order or preference, for they are all significant to any educator or parent who would like  a better way to raise their children.

1- Dumbing Us Down (by John Taylor Gatto)

dumbing us down

This radical treatise on public education has been a New Society Publishers' bestseller for 10 years! Thirty years of award-winning teaching in New York City's public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders as cogs in the industrial machine. Gatto powerfully and rightly takes the stance that institutional schooling is faling the the children. Referring to classrooms as “cell” and that “schools extend childhood” Gatto has reframed how most educators see schooling.  He argues that “learning can’t take place in pieces of time cut out for the convenience of an institution or in lessons set apart from the world in which students live. We don’t learn when life is divided up into sections that have little connection with each other”. He ends his books by claiming that “Teaching must … be decertified as quickly as possible. That certified teaching experts like me are deemed necessary to make learning happen is fraud and a scam. Look around you: the results of teacher-college licensing are int he schools you see”.

 

2- Weapons of Mass Instruction (by John Taylor Gatto)

weapons of mass instruction

John Taylor Gatto's Weapons of Mass Instruction focuses on mechanisms of traditional education which cripple imagination, discourage critical thinking, and create a false view of learning as a byproduct of rote-memorization drills. Gatto's earlier book, Dumbing Us Down, introduced the now-famous expression of the title into the common vernacular. Weapons of Mass Instruction adds another chilling metaphor to the brief against conventional schooling. Gatto demonstrates that the harm school inflicts is rational and deliberate. The real function of pedagogy, he argues, is to render the common population manageable. To that end, young people must be conditioned to rely upon experts, to remain divided from natural alliances and to accept disconnections from their own lived experiences. They must at all costs be discouraged from developing self-reliance and independence.Escaping this trap requires a strategy Gatto calls "open source learning" which imposes no artificial divisions between learning and life. Through this alternative approach our children can avoid being indoctrinated-only then can they achieve self-knowledge, good judgment, and courage.

 

3-  Pedagogy of the Oppressed (by Paulo Freire)

pedagogy of the oppressedFirst published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire's work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.

For Freire, the educational process is never neutral. People can be passive recipients of knowledge — whatever the content — or they can engage in a ‘problem-posing’ approach in which they become active participants. As part of this approach, it is essential that people link knowledge to action so that they actively work to change their societies at a local level and beyond.

In the video below, Freire talks about the importance of curiosity, of critical thinking and ultimately of hope. It is a profound reflection on learning.

 

4- Why Don’t Students Like School? (by Daniel T. Willingham)

why dont students like schoolKids are naturally curious, but when it comes to school it seems like their minds are turned off. Why is it that they can remember the smallest details from their favorite television program, yet miss the most obvious questions on their history test?
Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham has focused his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning and has a deep understanding of the daily challenges faced by classroom teachers. this book will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn—revealing the importance of story, emotion, memory, context, and routine in building knowledge and creating lasting learning experiences.
In this breakthrough book, Willingham has distilled his knowledge of cognitive science into a set of nine principles that are easy to understand and have clear applications for the classroom. Some of examples of his surprising findings are:
“Learning styles” don't exist The processes by which different children think and learn are more similar than different.
Intelligence is malleable Intelligence contributes to school performance and children do differ, but intelligence can be increased through sustained hard work.
You cannot develop “thinking skills” in the absence of facts We encourage students to think critically, not just memorize facts. However thinking skills depend on factual knowledge for their operation.
Why Don't Students Like School is a basic primer for every teacher who wants to know how their brains and their students’ brains work and how that knowledge can help them hone their teaching skills.

 

5- Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology

(by Allan Collins, Richard Halverson)

rethink educationAre schools making the most of new technologies? Are they tapping into the learning potential of today’s Firefox/Facebook/cell phone generation? Allan Collins and Richard Halverson argue that the way computers have transformed our workplaces and lives can and should be adapted to transform American schooling. This groundbreaking book offers a vision for the future that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with “anytime, anywhere” access, digital home schooling models, video games, and more.
The digital revolution has hit education, with more and more classrooms plugged into the whole wired world. But are schools making the most of new technologiesAre they tapping into thelearning potential of today’s Firefox/Facebook/cell phone generation? Have schools fallen through the crack of the digital divide? In Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson argue that the knowledge revolution has transformed our jobs, our homes, our lives, and therefore must also transform our schools.  Much like after the school-reform movement of the industrial revolution, our society is again poised at the edge of radical change. To keep pace with a globalized technological culture, we must rethink how we educate the next generation or America will be “left behind.” This groundbreaking book offers a vision for the future of American education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with “anytime, anywhere” access, digital home schooling models, video-game learning environments, and more.

 

6- The Unschooled Mind (by Howard Gardner)

unschooled mindHoward Gardner's brilliant concep (Howard Gardner)tion of individual competence has changed the face of education in the twenty-three years since the publication of his classic work, Frames of Mind. Since then thousands of educators, parents, and researchers have explored the practical implications and applications of Multiple Intelligences theory--the powerfulnotion that there are separate human capacities, ranging from musical intelligence to the intelligence involved in self-understanding. The first decade of research on MI theory and practice was reported in the 1993 edition of Multiple Intelligences. This new edition covers all developments since then and stands as the most thorough and up-to-date account of MI available anywhere. Completely revised throughout, it features new material on global applications and on MI in the workplace, an assessment of MI practice in the current conservative educational climate, new evidence about brain functioning, and much more.

 

7- How Children Learn (by John Holt)

how children learnThis enduring classic of educational thought offers teachers and parents deep, original insight into the nature of early learning. John Holt was the first to make clear that, for small children, “learning is as natural as breathing.” In this delightful yet profound book, he looks at how we learn to talk, to read, to count, and to reason, and how we can nurture and encourage these natural abilities in our children.”

 

 

 

 

8- Overschooled but Undereducated (John Abbott)

overschooledLooking at current educational policy John Abbott explains the need for transformational change in the education system and a drastic reassessment of outdated thinking. No political system is safe in this brilliant analysis of why the education system is failing, and how we can shake education out of its two-centuryís-old inertia.

The basic function of education in all societies and at all times is to prepare the younger generation for the kind of adult life which that society values, and wishes to perpetuate. By misunderstanding teenagersí instinctive need to do things for themselves, isnít society in danger of creating a system of schooling that so goes against the natural grain of the adolescent brain, that formal education ends up trivializing the very young people it claims to be supporting? By failing to keep up with appropriate research in the biological and social sciences, current educational systems continue to treat adolescence as a problem rather than an opportunity. Synthasizing an array of research, gathered from many sources including a series of international conferences, Overschooled but Undereducated examines the increasing need to revolutionize the education system globally. Itís simple: education has to be about preparing children to be good citizens ñ not merely successful pupils ñ and become adults who will thrive at unstructured tasks. In this lies societyís best assurance of a positive future.

 

9-  Education, Inc.: Turning learning into business (by Alfie Kohen)

education inc.While educators want their students to grow into thoughtful and curious people, the overriding objective of corporations is to maximize their own profits. From that fact alone we can predict what is likely to happen to the nature and purposes of our schools when business becomes involved in the education of our children. This unique and timely anthology chronicles the extent of that involvement, along with the troubling consequences it has already brought.

Author Alfie Kohn and professor of education Patrick Shannon have assembled a provocative collection of articles, including

 

  • an analysis of the racial implications of voucher programs
  • vivid accounts of how schoolchildren are targeted by advertisers
  • descriptions of how corporate propaganda is insinuated into classroom curriculums
  • an exposé of the political connections enjoyed by giant textbook and test publishers
  • a critical look at the process whereby teachers are turned into grant writers.

 

This book builds a convincing case against those who see children as “customers” or “workers”– and those who would turn learning into a business. As Kohn notes, “[Corporations] are not shy about trying to make over the schools in their own image. It’s up to the rest of us to firmly tell them to mind their own businesses.”

 

Do you have any other books for subversive teachers you would like to add? Share your books in the comments below so that I add them at the end of this post.

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