Friday, October 14

Books Every Concerned Parent Should Read

Our world has changed more in the past ten years that in my entire life prior to that, and this fast-pace is showing its detrimental effects in our kids.  The educational system, in particular, has really evolved (or devolved) over the past decade, although most parents didn't catch on until the pandemic, when students were learning from home and suddenly parents were aware of how school was truly going...

Personally, I grew up in the education system, with parents and grandparents that were teachers, aides, counselors, principals, and even a superintendent. I'm not intimidated by the administration figureheads because these are the same positions my loved ones held...they are the same halls I roller-skated through and spent many long evenings hanging out in. For better or worse, when I speak to leaders in the educational system, I speak to them with the confidence of an equal.

There are many parents who do not have that sense of ease or confidence. I get it. I feel the same way when dealing with anything in the medical community. This is one reason I've always been willing to go with local community members to speak with the schools, have acted as a liaison between the public and home schools in our area, and have been an outspoken leader in our local homeschooling community.

There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether homeschooling is the thing to do -- it's a different answer for every family, based on your needs, your children's needs, your location and opportunities available, and more. The decision to homeschool is as unique as each family that makes it...and there is wild variation among how homeschools look on a day to day basis.

If you have been following the 'climate' and trends, however, and are beginning to explore the option of homeschooling for your family - or if you are just looking for more information to tell well-meaning family members who continually ask when your kids are going back to school - I invite you to pick up several of the books below.

There will be some who seek to make this purely political. I don't write about politics on my blog (though those who know me best know I'm more than happy to discuss any issue with you over a cuppa). I'm staunchly a middle-of-the-road kind of gal, against voting party lines and all about reading up on issues from multiple sources rather than taking my news from social media. This battle against the changes in the educational system stems from my lifelong affiliation with it, and with those who worked hard to make it beneficial for the students, and my desire to continue to provide a well-rounded and solid education, whether it be public, private, or at home, for generations to come. What is happening in the system today is not sustainable - not for our students and not for the future of our society.

Even with my background, I still learned a lot about the history of 'the system' from these reads. They'll open your eyes...


Issues with the System

Death & Life of the Great American School System

Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today's most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, the Common Core, standardized testing, the replacement of teachers by technology, charter schools, and vouchers. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril and includes clear prescriptions for improving America's schools.

Dumbing Us Down

After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning "disabilities" are skyrocketing, and children and youth are increasingly disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.  He became a fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and learning, arguing that "genius is as common as dirt," but that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we're born with, replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment.

Race to the Bottom

American education is failing: Powerful special interest groups are using our kids as guinea pigs in vast ideological experiments. These groups’ initiatives aren’t focused on making children smarter—but on implementing a radical agenda, no matter the effect on academic standards. Nonprofits pump billions into initiatives meant to redress racial inequities. Rather than fixing the problem, districts with a big gap between white and black test scores hire consultants who claim the tests are meaningless because they are “racist.” These consultants’ judgments allow school districts to ignore their own failures—ultimately hurting minority students and perpetuating racism. Nonprofit influence has crept into the educational bureaucracy all over America. Corrupt school boards and quack diversity consultants abound. Teachers drawing government pay claim it’s unsafe to return to in-person school, but “double dip” teaching in-person private classes. And amid all this focus on money and equity, academic standards are crumbling, which hurts American kids in ways we’ll be suffering for decades.

Underground History of American Education

The World's Most Courageous Teacher" reveals the inner circle secrets of the American school system. The legendary schoolteacher, John Taylor Gatto, invested over 10 years of dedicated research to uncover some of the most alarming ideas and writings by the creators and advocates of mandatory attendance schooling, which show where the system came from and why it was created. He combined these facts with his personal experience as a teacher for 30 years in New York public schools, where he won many awards, including being named State Teacher of the Year twice, and has authored an all-time classic. This book was originally published in 2001, and has been printed a number of times. However, this updated version includes new essays from the author, as well as contributions from Dr. Ron Paul, David Ruenzel, and Richard Grove. This is the first of a 3 book volume which will help the reader gain a solid understanding about the American school organization and many of the hidden, yet powerful parts. In this first of set, Mr. Gatto's humble yet bold personality, mixed with humor and class, makes it an enjoyable read, despite the importance and implications of the subject. Mr. Gatto says, "It's time to take our schools back. If they mean to have a war, let it begin now.

Weapons of Mass Instruction

Gatto demonstrates that the harm school inflicts is rational and deliberate. The real function of pedagogy, he argues, is to render the common population manageable. To that end, young people must be conditioned to rely upon experts, to remain divided from natural alliances and to accept disconnections from their own lived experiences. They must at all costs be discouraged from developing self-reliance and independence. Escaping this trap requires a strategy Gatto calls "open source learning" which imposes no artificial divisions between learning and life. Through this alternative approach our children can avoid being indoctrinated-only then can they achieve self-knowledge, good judgment, and courage.


Changes in Education Today

Battling for the American Mind

Behind a smokescreen of “preparing students for the new industrial economy,” early progressives had political control in mind. America’s original schools didn’t just make kids memorize facts or learn skills; they taught them to think freely and arrive at wisdom. They assigned the classics, inspired love of God and country, and raised future citizens that changed the world forever. Battle for the American Mind is the untold story of the Progressive plan to neutralize the basis of our Republic – by removing the one ingredient that had sustained Western Civilization for thousands of years. Pete Hegseth and David Goodwin explain why, no matter what political skirmishes conservatives win, progressives are winning the war—and control the “supply lines” of future citizens.  Reversing this reality will require parents to radically reorient their children’s education; even most homeschooling and Christian schooling are infused with progressive assumptions. We need to recover a lost philosophy of education – grounded in virtue and excellence – that can arm future generations to fight for freedom. It’s called classical Christian education. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.

Cynical Theories

Have you heard that language is violence and that science is sexist? Have you read that certain people shouldn't practice yoga or cook Chinese food? Or been told that being obese is healthy, that there is no such thing as biological sex, or that only white people can be racist? Are you confused by these ideas, and do you wonder how they have managed so quickly to challenge the very logic of Western society? Today this dogma is recognizable as much by its effects, such as cancel culture and social-media dogpiles, as by its tenets, which are all too often embraced as axiomatic in mainstream media: knowledge is a social construct; science and reason are tools of oppression; all human interactions are sites of oppressive power play; and language is dangerous. Pluckrose and Lindsay break down how this often-radical activist scholarship does far more harm than good, not least to those marginalized communities it claims to champion. They also detail its alarmingly inconsistent and illiberal ethics. Only through a proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas, they conclude, can those who value science, reason, and consistently liberal ethics successfully challenge this harmful and authoritarian orthodoxy—in the academy, in culture, and beyond.

Counter Wokecraft

The Woke ideology is colonizing Western Civilization. This ideology views the world through a Marxist-inspired lens of “systemic power dynamics” that divides us between the “privileged” and the “oppressed.” This colonization has successfully captured many of our noblest and most vital institutions through time-tested strategies and tactics. People from almost every sector of life are concerned about this capture but feel paralyzed and helpless as this ideology activates itself and wields its power. The good news is that Woke tactics are predictable and can be countered. This guide is an invaluable contribution to understanding, recognizing, and ultimately countering “Wokecraft” wherever it appears. While the guide is tailored to the university, its lessons are applicable throughout government, K-12 education, the private sector, churches, and even formal and informal affinity groups. This makes the guide a much-needed contribution as people seek to push back against the destructive Woke ideology.

Race Marxism

Race Marxism exists to tell the truth about Critical Race Theory in unprecedented clarity and depth. Across its six weighty chapters, Lindsay explains what Critical Race Theory is, what it believes, where it comes from, how it operates, and what we can do about it now that we know what we're dealing with. It exposes Critical Race Theory for what it is by ranging widely across its own literature and a survey of some of the darkest philosophical currents of the last three hundred years in Western thought. Readers will come away understanding Critical Race Theory and be able to speak the truth about it with authority: Critical Race Theory is Race Marxism, and, like all Marxist Theories before it, it will not work this time.

For Christian Leaders

Live Not By Lies

For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of "soft" totalitarianism cropping up in America--something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life. Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to "safety". Progressives marginalize conservative, traditional Christians, and other dissenters. Technology and consumerism hasten the possibility of a corporate surveillance state. And the pandemic, having put millions out of work, leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulation.

Out of the Ashes

What do you do when an entire civilization is crumbling around you? You do everything. This is a book about how to get started. The Left’s culture war threatens America’s foundation and its very civilization, warns Esolen in his brand new book, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture. They will tell you that babies in the womb are fetuses, that gender is a social construct, and that the backbone of society is government not the community.  In Out of the Ashes, Esolen outlines his surprisingly simple plan to take back American culture— start at home. Esolen urges us to demand a return to values in our homes, our schools, our churches, and our communities, and to reject political correctness.

Books the Educators are Reading

Framing Dropouts

Fine is able to document the 'braiding' of race, class, gender in sophisticated ways and this is one of the text's greatest strengths. The link between those who 'drop out' and the restriction of critique is powerfully achieved. Fine has successfully re-presented the complexities of urban education. She should be applauded for her integration of black and feminist theorists. I believe this text is pioneering. It opens the literature on adolescents placed at risk to include contexts previously ignored. This should be required reading for all school personnel, future teachers, and those associated with educational contexts.

The Mismeasure of Man

When published in 1981, The Mismeasure of Man was immediately hailed as a masterwork, the ringing answer to those who would classify people, rank them according to their supposed genetic gifts and limits. And yet the idea of innate limits―of biology as destiny―dies hard, as witness the attention devoted to The Bell Curve, whose arguments are here so effectively anticipated and thoroughly undermined by Stephen Jay Gould. In this edition Dr. Gould has written a substantial new introduction telling how and why he wrote the book and tracing the subsequent history of the controversy on innateness right through The Bell Curve. Further, he has added five essays on questions of The Bell Curve in particular and on race, racism, and biological determinism in general. These additions strengthen the book's claim to be, as Leo J. Kamin of Princeton University has said, "a major contribution toward deflating pseudo-biological 'explanations' of our present social woes."

The Paideia Program

The Paideia Program is based on the belief that the human species is defined by its capacity and desire for learning. The program itself argues for a public education that is at once more rigorous and more accessible.

The Shame of the Nation

Since the early 1980s, when the federal courts began dismantling the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, segregation of black children has reverted to its highest level since 1968. In many inner-city schools, a stick-and-carrot method of behavioral control traditionally used in prisons is now used with students. Meanwhile, as high-stakes testing takes on pathological and punitive dimensions, liberal education has been increasingly replaced by culturally barren and robotic methods of instruction that would be rejected out of hand by schools that serve the mainstream of society.

Teachers as Cultural Workers

Freire's words challenge all who teach to reflect critically on the meaning of the act of teaching as well as the meaning of learning. He shows why a teacher's success depends on a permanent commitment to learning and training, as part of an ongoing appraisal of classroom practice. By opening themselves to recognition of the different roads students take in order to learn, teachers will become involved in a continual reconstruction of their own paths of curiosity, opening the doors to habits of learning that will benefit everyone in the classroom. 

What would you add to this list?  Or what's your hot-button issue?

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