A compendium of educational books

15th February 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Books of the Week: An Assortment on Education

On to this week’s recommendations, which all relate to education. We’ve had a number of books suggested to us recently, and we decided to review them all at once, so as to be able to contrast and compare them with one another.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto.  Gatto’s book is a quick, yet thought-provoking set of essays critical of the educational system.  His background in writing this book is unusual—Gatto was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991. The eloquence and intelligence with which Gatto vivisects the modern K-12 world makes the book a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in education; it is particularly worthwhile for parents.  Highly recommended.

The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux, by Cathy Davidson. We went into this book with high hopes—Davidson characterizes herself as a contrarian instigator with provocative new ideas about how to revolutionize higher education.  What we found was a series of cherry-picked stories that supported Davidson’s unswerving worldview that MOOCs are bad and difficult or virtually impossible to learn from,  and that the only real way to learn well is through a teacher who is willing to go to extremes to provide the personal touch. Her ultimate underlying recommendation for improving universities? Throw more money at them. (She dismisses criticism of academic misspending, bloat or the like with a few quick Manichean sentences.) No wonder some academicians love her despite her self-proclaimed contrarian stance.

How readers would have benefited from seeing a profile a student like Tulio Baars, who has taken over 160 MOOCs to self-educate and used that knowledge to found an innovative new data analysis company! Tulio demonstrates the potential of today’s students to take advantage of the economy of scale that MOOCs provide to bootstrap themselves at low cost to an extraordinary education.

Davidson constantly interweaves poorly founded opinion with facts—unless you know which are which, it can be hard for typical readers to understand when she’s going off the rails.  This is one of the few books we are reviewing without recommending.

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, by Bryan Caplan. If you are in any way involved in education, or you think education is important (as we do!), this book will make you uncomfortable. But unlike The New Education, The Case Against Education is rigorously argued, and it will force you to examine the premises of your support for learning. Ultimately, we found that this book caused us to respect real learning even more.  Strongly recommended.

Education and the State, by E.G. West This important book seems to have somehow fallen off educator’s reading lists, which is a shame. If you want a solid reference about how education has developed over the past centuries in the UK and US, (admittedly with a bit of heavy reading involved–we spent several weeks reading it several years ago, but thought it worthwhile to review here), you couldn’t do better than to read West’s book. West doesn’t shy away from detailing the self-serving nature of many educational institutions.

Class Central’s Best Online Courses of 2017

Here’s a great listing from the irreplaceable Class Central of the top MOOCs of 2017.  First on the list, no surprise, is (click to find out!).

Middle College National Consortium

Barb was very fortunate to present a few days ago for the Middle College National Consortium (MCNC) in Newport, California. If you are interested in allowing high school students to get an early jump on college—an experience that’s especially helpful for students from disadvantaged backgrounds—please look into the Middle College National Consortium.  It’s a great organization!

Read More: 27 Ways To Get Reading This Year

Here’s a nice posting from the indefatigable Arthur Worsley on how to accomplish more with your reading.

OopsWe left off the link last week for The Learning Zone—An Interesting Website for Teachers and Students about Learning

LHTLer Massimo Curatella pointed us towards this intriguing website, where teachers can ask questions about learning to a great variety of experts in education, psychology, and neuroscientist.  Check it out! (We love the site’s tongue-in-cheek subtitle: I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!)

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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