For someone who writes so much about reading, I don’t seem to do enough of it. Chalk it up to a consulting business busting at the seams, two toddlers at home, and a personal choice of writing over reading. For my birthday, the edu-wife gave me the Kindle II, bringing together my loves of technology and books. And I have excitedly downloaded a number of tomes on my new handheld (unfortunately, most of them are business related).
So before I head off on my latest business trip, I wanted to clear off the ole Eduflack bookshelf and reflect a little on three books (two new) that are worth a close read as we continue our discussions, debates, and activities on education improvement.
The first is Jay Mathews’ Work Hard. Be Nice.If you haven’t heard of this book yet, you must be living under a rock. This is Mathews’ telling of the creation of the Knowledge is Power Program, or KIPP. This is a must-read, particularly in this day and age. Anyone who doubts the value of well-run charter schools has to read this book. Anyone who doubts the role hard work (both of teacher and student) can have on achievement has to read this book. And anyone who thinks that some kids just aren’t cut out for success has to read this book. Whether you believe in the KIPP model or not, whether you trust the data on KIPP or not, you have to appreciate the passion and belief structure that goes into the schools and is so clearly articulated in Work Hard. As for Eduflack, I’ve got the work hard part down pretty well. Be nice has always been a challenge.
Second off the shelf is Chalkbored: What’s Wrong with School & How to Fix It. I’ll admit it, I was simply intrigued by the title. Jeremy Schneider does a great job at laying out the problems, or perceived problems, facing our public schools. More importantly, Schneider focuses on two key issues to move us from obstacle to opportunity. The first is that we all must take responsibility for change. it isn’t just up to the teacher or the principal to improve the learning process. There is a role for all involved in the development of the child. The second is that technology is a key component to meaningful solutions. This is particularly important in today’s economic age, as we ask our schools to do more and more with less and less. Chalkbored begins to even lay the groundwork for the impact open educational resources (or OER) can have on the school improvement movement.
My final read may surprise some folks. Eduflack has been spending a great deal of time focusing on educational equity and access issues. So a friend passed along a great title to help inspire me and guide some of my thinking. Black Genius: African American Solutions to African American Problems is a collection of essays from some great leaders in the African-American community. Edited by Eduflack fave Walter Mosley, Black Genius provides a range of intriguing thoughts on a range of topics such as effective communications, the media, and democracy. The book is both thought-provoking and inspiring, and again reminds us that improvement requires the work of all. We can’t blame anyone for our problems, nor can we expect others to help if we won’t step up ourselves.
Each of these books deserves a post on their own merits. Collectively, they help provide a better understanding of the lens through which Eduflack views our education improvement activities, how we can truly improve, and who and how needs to be involved if we are to make such changes stick and have a real difference.