Time to go hunting for books for the people on your Christmas list, and I have some recommendations for you if there are people on your list who care about public education (and really, everybody should).
Before we start shopping, let me also direct your attention to Bookshop.org, an online vendor set up to benefit local independent booksellers instead of, say, giving Jeff Mezos his next gazillion dollars. You can also use it to locate a local bookstore and then shop even more directly.
Now, here's my handful or recommendations for this year.
This book does not actually ship for another week, but based on the fact that it's edited by Jesse Hagopian and Denisha Jones, my copy is already on order.
Andre Perry brings a really unique collection of hats to this work, from Brookings scholar to education journalist, and this work is an impressive distillation of it all. At some points, it's a powerful personal reflection on his own experience, and at others, a scholarly look at how Blacks in the US have had value systematically stripped from them in ways that have lasting financial and social consequences. This book is huge help in understanding the how of racism in not just abstract or social ways, but in concrete, practical financial ways.
Schoolhouse Burning by Derek Black and A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door by Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider are two entirely separate books, but they make a perfect pairing. It enhances both to read them back to back.
Black is a legal scholar whose book traces the importance of education in this country as reflected in the laws and constitutions of the states. This book is a perfect response to those who claim that public education is not in the US Constitution and is not foundational to democracy and anyway we are a republic. A good, clear explanation of how we arrived at the present moment, and why an assault on public education is an assault on democracy.
Schneider, an education scholar, and Berkshire, an education journalist, together host the popular Have You Heard podcast. They have crafted a critical explanation of how the once-right-fringe idea of privatizing public education has become an accepted mainstream policy idea, and lay out the tools being used to further that cause.
And if you want to make it a trilogy, here's the perfect follow up. Way back at the dawn of this year, Diane Ravitch published her latest book. Slaying Goliath focuses on the fight against education disruptors and the many signature battles of the last few decades. Highlighting the many aspects of the grassroots fight to preserve public ed and the forces arrayed against it in Ravitch's trademark scholarly firebrand style, this shows how the fight to preserve the bedrock of democracy can be won and argues passionately that it must. Ravitch's blog has long stood as the town square, the hub of the universe of public education supporters, and it gives her an unmatched view of the movement in all its forms.
John Warner's book is admittedly of greatest use to those who actually teach writing in the classroom, but that's a subject near and dear to my heart, and this book says so many of the things I believe need to be said about teaching writing, and why it has become an endangered art, and how we could better approach it.
If you're buying a gift for someone who has been studying up on the basics of the education debates and who wants to be able to get in their and dig out information on their own, particularly to research local ed issues, this book is the berries. Schneider shares all the tricks of the researcher's trade for making connections between groups, following the money, and getting at the truth that is so often being concealed.
And if we cheat a little and dip into last year:
Anand Giridharadas's book is now just over a year old, but if you haven't read it yet, you should. Everybody should. Beyond the red versus blue politics of our era, this book looks at how the elites trained in places like McKinsey have come to make such a mess out of this country. Really--everybody you know should read this book. And now that you've waited, you can get it in paperback.
Robert Pondiscio's book about Success Academy shows that this charter juggernaut is both better and worse than you imagined. If you want a solid, serious look at how the grand dame of charterdom really does her thing, this book gives you a hard look, even with Pondiscio's preference for choice.
From earlier in 2019, Andrea Gabor's book is still one of the best looks at the best and worst of education reform; the early pioneers, the big successes, and the big failures. Here's how to improve a public school system without breaking it down for parts and selling off the scrap.
I'm reaching all the way back to 2017, but as arguments about standardized testing heat up again, this book still offers the definitive explanation of what is wrong with our test-centric approach, what is wrong with tests themselves, and why the testocrats' preferred path to drag us all down is the wrong one. Required reading for anyone who expects to be in an argument about the Big Standardized Test.
I could go on all day, and there is so much to choose form out there that I have no doubt missed some worthy choices, but you've now got enough of a list to get some shopping done, whether it's cyber-shopping today or in the weeks ahead.