Before we go any further with this blog, I should clarify that the topic is “Education” broadly. Not just computer science education, and not just technology and education. The field is wide open.
Back in my college days, when I wasn't busy taking computer science classes, I was taking education classes. A lot of them. And it completely, utterly changed my world view – it was definitely one of the major formative experiences of my life. One of the things that made it really great for me was to read, across a broad set of authors, a wide set of views on society and education and the tug-of-war between the two.
Here are some of my all-time favorite education-related books, whose learnings have stuck with me over the years.
- The Children's Story , by James Clavell. By an order of magnitude, the shortest book Clavell has ever written – and probably the creepiest. It made me think a lot harder about choosing schools for my daughters.
- Learning to Labor , by Paul Willis. Subtitled, “How working class kids get working class jobs” but in the introduction the author explains that he really wanted to say “how upper class kids get upper class jobs, and why working class kids let them.” The book is about how historically the British culture has taught members of each economic class that their was the best class to be in, in stark contrast to the Protestant work ethic in the US that encourages people to try to move up. You could argue that upward mobility in both cultures is severely limited, but the difference in message that's sent is quite striking. Of course, the education system is key in transmitting this message – or any cultural message.
- Asylums , by Erving Goffman. The name of the book is somewhat misleading; it's really about institutions, as viewed and experienced from the inside out. If you want to understand how a school (another form of institution) shapes a student, this is required reading.
- Horace's Compromise , by Ted Sizer. Horace is a dedicated, hardworking teacher. But if you simply add up all the work required to completely fulfill the responsibilities of a full-time teacher, you quickly realize that we ask the impossible of our teachers. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to do it all. Thus teachers constantly compromise to try to make it work. This is an incredibly enlightening book that will give you a new level of sympathy for the teaching profession.
- Teaching as a Subversive Activity , by Postman and Weingartner. As a stealth subversive, the title alone appeals to me. This is a great and truly inspiring book, though, for anyone who wants to change the world, one student at a time.
I would love to hear others' comments on these books, as well as suggestions for other great books about education. I have a separate list of my least favorite books on education, and I'll save that for another day.