Friday, July 6, 2012

Summer reading

One of my regular readers asked me to post ideas for summer reading. Here is some of what I've been reading this past year:

1. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch

This is a must read for Canadians, because school "choice" is the single biggest threat to our public education system. It comes in by stealth...choice seems positive and for many parents offers opportunities for their children they believe are valuable. But for society as a whole, "choice" can undermine one of the most fundamental principles of a public system - equal opportunity for all children. The sad reality is that "choices" cannot be exercises equally by all families and they end up creating similar inequities that we see between public and private schools.

Diane Ravitch speaks with a great deal of authority, having been herself involved in the federal education bureaucracy and a one time supporter of No Child Left Behind. But her professional judgement brought her to a change of mind and she is now one of the most vocal opponents of US education "reform". This is also an easy and pleasurable read, full of anecdotes and history.

2. Hold on to your kids, by Gerald Neufeld and Gabor Mate

This book taught me more about child development, attachment parenting, and classroom management than anything I ever read during my education degree. Of interest to both parents and teachers, the book reviews the role of attachment in the development and maturation of children and provides fascinating explanations for challenging behaviours of school age children including defiance, peer orientation, early sexualization, and just plain old teen "attitude".

For teachers and those interested in educational policy there is a clear message - we need the time and the personal relationships with children to have meaningful impact on their lives and to keep them engaged and oriented towards adults, rather than peers. Engagement is not "frills" or "edutainment", but rather the consequence of respect and attachment earned through relationship building. And there is only one way to build this relationship - time together. Never has a book indirectly made me feel more committed to the phrase "class size matters".

3. Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation, by Jeff Bale and Sarah Knopp

This is the real 21st century learning. Thought provoking essays on the pitfalls of "reform" and what's actually wrong with American schools written by teacher activists in the trenches. A wide variety of issues are discussed: Is the reason for schooling really about economic advantage? The history of teachers unions. Education in corporate America. Education and social change. Social justice teaching.


  1. A few years ago, I do remember reading on the BBC website the school satisfaction rates between parents in England and Scotland. In England where there is "choice" in education, the parental rate of satisfaction was lower than in Scotland where children usually attend their assigned local school. I am not too sure why there were these differences in rates (especially inverse differences). I will guess that the parents in Scotland make take ownership in their local schools whereas the parents in England can jump ship to another school if they are not satisfied with the original school.


  3. Excellent suggestions all!

    Here are a few more to add to the list:

    • Ball => Global education Inc.: New policy networks and the neoliberal imaginary:

    Do private and philanthropic solutions to the problems of education signal the end of state education in its ‘welfare’ form?

    Education policy is being reformed and re-worked on a global scale. Policies are flowing and converging to produce a singular vision of ‘best practice’ based on the methods and tenets of the ‘neo-liberal imaginary’. Philanthropy, business and the governments are coming together in new networks and sites of policy outside of the framework of the nation state. This book is a first step in recording, mapping and making sense of the most important aspects of these new relations and dynamics of policy.

    Using the approach of ‘policy sociology’ and the methods of social network analysis, Global Education Inc. explores the policy activities of edu-businesses, neo-liberal advocacy networks and policy entrepreneurs, and of social enterprises and ‘new’ philanthropy. It also addresses the ways in which education and education policy itself are now being exported and bought and sold as profitable commodities and how entrenched problems of educational development and educational quality and access are now being addressed through ‘market solutions’. That is, by the involvement of private providers in the delivery of educational services, both independently and on behalf of the state.

    Universities, schools and education services are being acquired as assets by private equity companies. Private storefront schools are being set-up by local entrepreneurs and through franchising arrangements, funded through microloans. School chains funded by philanthropy and run by multi-national edu-businesses are being harnessed to the attempts of developing societies in an attempt to achieve their Millennium Development Goals and provide mass access to basic education. Curriculum materials and pedagogy software and policy ideas such as inspections, leadership, school choice and accountability are being retailed by western ‘knowledge companies’ and consultants across the globe. This book argues that these new forms of policy and policy-making require new concepts and methods of policy analysis, with chapters including:

    Networks, Neo-liberalism and Policy Mobilities
    'New' Philanthropy, Social Capitalism and Education Policy
    Policy as Profit: Selling and Exporting Policy
    Money, Meaning and Policy Connections

    Global Education Inc. is a crucial book that will be of great interest to students of social and education policy and social and education policy analysts and researchers.

    1. • Giroux => Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories, and the Culture of Cruelty:

      Facing a crisis unlike that of any other generation, young people are caught between the discourses of consumerism and a powerful crime-control-complex, and are viewed increasingly as commodities or are subjected to the dictates of an ever expanding criminal justice system. Drawing upon critical analyses, biography, and social theory, Disposable Youth explores the current conditions of young people now face within an emerging culture of privatization, insecurity, and commodification and raises some important questions regarding the role that educators, young people, and concerned citizens might play in challenging the plight of young people, while deepening and extending the promise of a better future and a viable democracy.

      • Giroux => Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability:

      During a time of social upheaval abroad and labor protests in America, we should ask: why do citizens, especially young people, so seldom act to leverage their power, assemble for protests, and build organizations to reclaim the possibilities offered by a future in which democracy matters? Looking at a broad range of topics ”from youth and the promise of new media technologies, to declining funding of schools, the economic Darwinism of globalization, and the need for a formative democratic political culture--Henry Giroux's new book is a compelling account of the erosion in recent decades of the very idea of "the social" in America and in other societies. Recent generations have endorsed neoliberal policies, leaving today's young people not only without a voice, but also saddled with a set of economic, political, and social conditions that have rendered them devalued, marginalized, and ultimately disposable. Evidence of the ongoing disinvestment in youth across the globe is all too visible and has come to the forefront today of student protests in a number of countries. Giroux looks to new ways in which citizens must seek social spaces in which the conditions exist for them to narrate themselves as individual and social agents of change.

      • Morrow & Torres => Social theory and education: A critique of social and cultural reproduction

      This book summarizes the body of knowledge about sociology of education and cultural studies as it informs educational research and critical pedagogy. It synthesizes the most relevant work in social and cultural reproduction published in the last three decades in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. The authors document and critique the theoretical discussion in developments in both advanced societies and peripheral ones, and link macro-sociological issues with social psychological ones. The book introduces theories of the state to underscore a political sociology of education, and highlights an agenda for theory building, research, and practice in sociology of education.

    2. • Peters & Freeman-Moir => Edutopias: New utopian thinking in education

      Education has always been part of the search for the ideal society and, therefore, an important part of the utopian tradition in Western culture, politics and literature. Education has often served to define the ideal society or to provide the principal means of creating it. This unique collection of essays by well known scholars from around the world examines the role of edutopias in the utopian tradition, examining its sources and sites as a means for understanding the aims and purposes of education, for realizing its societal value, and for criticizing its present economic, technological and organizational modes. These essays will stimulate new thinking in ways that impinge on both theoretical and practical questions, as well as offering the reader a series of reminders of the ethical and political dimensions of education and its place in helping to build good and just societies. The collection is aimed at an audience of teachers and graduate students, although it will also be of interest to administrators, policy-makers and the general public interested in utopian thinking and its relation to education.

      For a preview through chapter 2, see =>

      • Rizvi & Lingard => Globalizing education policy:

      In what ways have the processes of globalization reshaped the educational policy terrain?

      How might we analyse education policies located within this new terrain, which is at once local, national, regional and global?

      In Globalizing Education Policy, the authors explore the key global drivers of policy change in education, and suggest that these do not operate in the same way in all nation-states. They examine the transformative effects of globalization on the discursive terrain within which educational policies are developed and enacted, arguing that this terrain is increasingly informed by a range of neo-liberal precepts which have fundamentally changed the ways in which we think about educational governance. They also suggest that whilst in some countries these precepts are resisted, to some extent, they have nonetheless become hegemonic, and provide an overview of some critical issues in educational policy to which this hegemonic view of globalization has given rise, including:
      devolution and decentralization

      new forms of governance
      the balance between public and private funding of education
      access and equity and the education of girls
      curriculum particularly with respect to the teaching of English language and technology
      pedagogies and high stakes testing
      and the global trade in education.

      These issues are explored within the context of major shifts in global processes and ideological discourses currently being experienced, and negotiated by all countries. The book also provides an approach to education policy analysis in an age of globalization and will be of interest to those studying globalization and education policy across the social sciences.

    3. • Saltman & Gabbard => Education as enforcement: The militarization and corporatization of public schools

      The first volume to focus on the intersections of militarization, corporations, and education, Education as Enforcement exposed the many ways schooling has become the means through which the expansion of global corporate power are enforced. Since publication of the first edition, these trends have increased to disturbing levels as a result of the extensive militarization of civil society, the implosion of the neoconservative movement, and the financial meltdown that radically called into question the basic assumptions undergirding neoliberal ideology. An understanding of the enforcement of these corporate economic imperatives remains imperative to a critical discussion of related militarized trends in schools, whether through accountability and standards, school security, or other discipline based reforms.

      Education as Enforcement elaborates upon the central arguments of the first edition and updates readers on how recent events have reinforced their continued original relevance. In addition to substantive updates to several original chapters, this second edition includes a new foreword by Henry Giroux, a new introduction, and four new chapters that reveal the most contemporary expressions of the militarization and corporatization of education. New topics covered in this collection include zero-tolerance, foreign and second language instruction in the post-9/11 context, the rise of single-sex classrooms, and the intersection of the militarization and corporatization of schools under the Obama administration.

      For review, see =>

  4. Hi, just wanted to point out that #2 "Hold onto Your Kids" is written by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.