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I’ve previously offered this post featuring four of my favorite school-set novels. So,today I’m offering six more books on schools, teaching and education.
Crusading journalist Jonathan Kozol’s book Savage Inequalities shows us just why our schools aren’t equal–FUNDING. Oh, I know! I know! It’s not just money. But after you read this book, even allowing for his very liberal bias, you’ll see that things just aren’t right. All kids do not attend the same sort of school, yet all kids are expected to pass the same tests and get into college on the same criteria–admittedly, this last can be evened a bit–but a “bit” does not mean what many people think it does. Go ahead. Imagine having to send you child to one of those in the East Saint Louis that Kozol so eloquently presents. You wouldn’t do it. Savage Inequalities by Jonothan Kozol.
My kids both read this great non-fiction book in school. It opened their eyes to possibility, to the human experience and to what personal changes in attitude can do for anyone’s life. We enjoyed the movie version together as a family movie night and stayed on talking after it. The entire experience generated by this book, the class time, the movie and our family discussion was a moment of maturity gained for my kids and, also, for me. The Freedom Writer’s Diary, book and the movie version.
Waldorf Schools are amazing places. I love so much of what they do in their classrooms. We lived in one city where such a school existed, but as a single Mom it wasn’t possible due to before and after school care being unavailable. This book tells one teacher’s story of life in one Waldorf School. The magical, the mundane, the unexpected–it’s all there. School as a Journey by Torin M. Finser.
Armed with a degree in secretarial work from a segregated southern college, Marva Collins worked in the Chicago Public Schools as a dissatisfied, disgusted emergency substitute–teaching full time but without the protection of a Union. When she left, deciding to start her own school, the odds were against her. She lived in a low-income Westside neighborhood haunted by poverty, gangs and all that go with them. She started with her own children and a few others–mostly rejects from special education. Before the world heard of homeschooling or of “All Children Can Learn” or “high expectations” she quietly took discarded textbooks from a dumpster and got started. Before long 60 Minutes came calling. It seems she got “ghetto” children to read and understand Shakespeare, Plutarch and other classic authors. They had vocabularies that were off the charts. But many had been labeled in public school. What was her magic formula? Later she would have her own chain of schools and advise public school teachers how to replicate what she’d done. Oh, there were nay-sayers, discreditors, “haters” in today’s lingo. It didnt’ stop her. This book includes an outstanding book list, too. They finally gave her popular culture’s highest honor: A made for tv-movie! Marva Collins Way.
Who can forget Sidney Portier entering a run-down East End London secondary school and meeting 60s pop star Lulu? How he turned a gaggle of unruly, but of course, good-natured Cockney kids into young ladies and gentlemen who enjoyed going to the Victoria and Albert Museum is the stuff of legends. But for generations, in Britain at least, people have spent money to improve their speech and manners to help their own upward mobility. He did it for free–even if it was to better manager a costers barrow or be a doorman at a posh American Hotel! While the book and the movie have a few differences, both are wonderful. To Sir, With Love book or movie.
Remember the kid who raised goats, did homeschool and got into Harvard? This is how he did it. He started the myth that many, many homeschoolers get into prestigious colleges. Myth because most go to the same colleges everyone else goes to and in roughly the same percentages. Others eschew college on principle. This book, though, tells you how to prepare yourself for any college and for life. The Colfax parents were extremely well-educated and turned to homeschooling and homesteading only when all school options failed them. Building a homestead from the ground up, growing their food, living off grid–these were as much a part of the boys’ education as the time spent with great literature and calculus books. The goat thing happened as a simple way to provide milk, cheese and, probably, though I don’t remember for certain, meat on a small enough scale for their family and their land. He just noticed something and, being from a family from the publish-or-perish realms of academia, wrote it up and submitted it. I love that this family adopted two of their children, too. This is NOT the 19 Kids and Counting Duggar’s homeschool–no drill and kill workbooks or computer-assisted-mastery-instruction. These boys went on to real careers in medicine and other disciplines. I’ve included their homesteading book here, too, as it deals with the practicalities of basic survival as they built their home, cleared their land and made a true home. Homeschooling for Excellence. Hard Times in Paradise.
Remember to click and read the four School Novels post that finishes my Top Ten!
School year just starting? Did it already start and things are too chaotic? Check out last week’s post of What Caught My Eye for Back-to-School with tips on everything from upcycling last year’s backpack to lunch packing stations and family command centers to tackle schedule chaos! What Caught My Eve for Back-to-School.