MINDFOOD I: Top 10 Books Every Progressive Educator Should Read

Nick Covington
Chris McNutt
September 24, 2022
We break down our favorite books on progressive education.


0:00:10.1 Chris McNutt: Hello, and welcome to our first installment of MINDFOOD, a series of more casual content that's easily digestible. This episode is brought to you by Anna Wentlent, Rivka Ocho, and Alexander Gruber. Today, we're looking at the "Top 10 Books That Every Progressive Educator Should Read". These are personal recommendations by Nick and I that we feel like if you wanna be a progressive educator, you should definitely check one of these out. So next time you're at the library, you're on Thriftbooks or on Amazon or something, maybe add this to your cart and see what's up with it. Before we get started, Nick, is there anything you wanna say?

0:00:45.5 Nick Covington: I got nothing. [chuckle] Let's get to it.

0:00:48.2 CM: Alright. Here go, "Top 10 Books That Every Progressive Educator Should Read".

0:00:52.9 S?: Ten.


0:00:54.5 NC: There it is. I hate it so much. Alright. I decided to organize my top 10 list, in chronology, so tracking my journey into progressive education. And for me, that really starts... The more that I unpack that, for me that really starts in my history, social science, methods classes, because there's a lot of... I didn't know it at the time, but there's a lot of critical pedagogy embedded in the way that we think about history and historiography. And this one is from the recently passed now, James Loewen. There were two books that I had read of James Loewen's in my college methods courses, one probably is maybe fit for a more general audience, and of course, that is "Lies My Teacher Told Me".

0:01:43.5 NC: And the title today, I think, would be very clickbaitey. But for me, it was one of those epiphanies, or a revelation. Talking through those hidden histories, the way that our textbooks teach them, the way that the state standards are written, the way that different textbooks in different regions cover various topics. And tapping into that sense of history as national myth-making and mythologizing, and how the stories we tell define both our past, our present, and our future. That probably could not be more relevant today, given the contention around what history... The way history is taught, around critical race theory, and all those things too. With an honorable mention, again, to James Loewen for probably a more history-focused book, but it's called "Shadowed Ground". Have you ever heard of this book, Chris?

0:02:45.3 CM: I don't know that one.

0:02:47.5 NC: It's actually, [chuckle] it's not from James Loewen, dang it. It's actually from Kenneth Foote...

0:02:51.5 CM: Good start. Okay.

0:02:52.6 NC: Yeah, great. Sorry, I thought they were both from James Loewen. [chuckle] I remember reading them at the same time, so maybe that's where the streams got crossed. But it's in that same vein, but it's really a geographic history of the way that we tell those national myths and stories through monuments, and the myth-making around those. So, how do we... The subtitle of it is, "America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy". And it really is how we build into our physical... The architecture, our physical landscape, how we commemorate events, our histories, coming clear up through 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, but really focused particularly on the Civil War, the civil rights movement, and I think that really helped inform a lot of my own pedagogy going forward and giving me a platform to be able to... I guess a footing to be able to talk in an informed way about difficult conversations in a classroom, like, "What should we do with these monuments to the Confederacy? What do we do with the artifacts in the British Museum? How do we commemorate those things in those spaces?" So those two books probably are more historiography, again, the history methods, But really were the jumping off point for me in starting my thinking, my critical thinking about the teaching of history. So what do you got?

0:04:27.3 CM: Yeah. "Lies My Teacher Told Me" was one of the first books that got me interested in being a history teacher when I was in high school. 'Cause I think I originally wanted to be an English teacher, and I swapped after I started diving into those books, because they're really accessible for kids. And, yeah, it's very well-written and very easy to understand. I have no idea with the other books is, but I'll have to check it out.

0:04:50.4 NC: Yeah. Well, actually, I'd used excerpts of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" in my class, and because it is really digestible about issues around Columbus, and "Did Columbus really discover America?" and just setting some of those big key essential questions. Alright, you're up.

0:05:09.1 CM: Alright. So my list is arranged slightly differently. I started off with two, arguably three, more niche books that I still think everyone should read, but I think they are very much from my perspective, which might... They're all from my perspective, but I think these stand out a lot more. And then the rest of them, I think, are just good books in general that everyone should check out. My number 10 is something that we're incorporating into our upcoming conference, and Nick has been seeing me screenshot probably 300 pages of this book, because it blows my mind every time I turn the page and I'm like, "Man, this connects so much to everything that we talk about." And that is "Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences" by Tynan Sylvester. So this is not an education book, this is actually a textbook about designing video games, but the book dives into educational philosophy on pretty much every page. Tynan Sylvester, he is the creator of an indie video game called "RimWorld" which is one of the best-selling games on PC, it's very popular.

0:06:20.1 CM: And it's known for being a simulation type game, very similar to The Sims or Sim City where there's no defined objective, you just do your thing and you play within this game world, almost like toys. And this book is really a culmination of his understanding of systems and how we think about things like motivation and choice, tutorials, game psychology, and how do we inform players not only to learn games, but then continue playing the game once they've learned it? And every time I read one of these books, but especially this one, I'm shocked at how much it connects to how we learn in the classroom. James Paul Gee, the guy who did a lot of video game writing and connecting it to education, I think was the prelude to this. I just recently read, I forget what it's called, but it's literacy and video games that he had written about 10, 15 years ago, and it's a great book, but it's very dated, 'cause the video game references are, if you're under 30 years old, you probably have no idea what he's talking about.

0:07:27.7 NC: There are a couple of decades old...

0:07:29.5 CM: Yeah, yeah. So this book gets a lot more into like, why is it that a kid will pick up Mario, Mario Odyssey, and fail and fail and fail and fail, and play the exact same, like moon or star 200 times and still have fun doing it, why are they having fun even though they're failing? Or why is it that some games fail at teaching you tutorials, where they just give you all the information upfront through text boxes, like an old dialogue box will pop-up and say, "Hit A to jump, and do this to do this," and then you forget about it, versus games that teach you experientially, or they just present you with a gap and then you have to jump over it and you have to figure it out. There are just so many parallels when you're reading this book. And eventually, on our YouTube channel, we'll definitely have a presentation that mirrors what we're doing in these conferences that talks about learnings from this book specifically. So yeah, my number 10, "Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences" by Tynan Sylvester.

0:08:29.2 NC: Yeah. And we've even had on game designers. That episode we did a couple of years ago with Seth Coster is still just one of my top 10 because he, without even realizing it, taps into those pedagogical concepts because really, the player in this case is the learner. And you as a game designer have to teach the player how to play the game, or set up the conditions for the learner to want to be self-directed and provide them the tools and teach them how to use them in the game so that way they can feel motivated to wanna continue. So it really is... It's like a lesson in that self-determination theory. As a replacement for the behaviorism that we see in classrooms, this one relies on autonomy, competence, relevance, all of those other things that game designers are gonna use to draw you into that. Since that conversation, I've been pretty staunchly on the camp of like, educators can learn a lot from game designers. And, yeah, we'll have to talk the caveats with that, 'cause certainly there's some that maybe tap into more of those behaviorist mechanisms and become gambling machines that are banned in many countries, lootbox systems and those kinds of things, mobile games. But, yeah, that's a good one. I have not read that one, but I should read James Paul...

0:09:43.9 CM: Virtual Skinner box. Yeah.

0:09:46.6 NC: Yes. Yeah, the virtual Skinner boxes. That's what we wanna avoid, and maybe have worlds look more like Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild, or Minecraft, and those kinds of things, as opposed to your Cookie Clickers and your... [chuckle] And some of those things too.

0:10:03.4 CM: Yeah. And one more thing I'll say about that before I move into number nine is, there used to historically be that argument like, "Should kids play video games? Is it rotting their brain, or whatever it might be?" And it's worth knowing that in the modern era, since those arguments were [0:10:20.7] ____up in the '80s and '90s, games have just become more and more complex, and a kid who's playing Minecraft is navigating an incredibly complex game with many, many, many systems. And I think there's a lot to be learned from, not only how is that designed, but how is the information presented, how is the player continually wanting to do it, and how are they engaged in it? Because obviously, that game is enjoyed by millions upon millions of kids, even kids who are very young, and they are understanding it quite well. So there's definitely something there.

0:10:58.2 S?: Nine.


0:11:01.9 NC: I hate it so much. Okay. So my number nine, the next book in my journey. Obviously this list isn't comprehensive, but just signposts for me as I progress. Coming out of the college methods classes, thinking about history, thinking about teaching history, and then going into 2012, fast-forward a few years here. The context here for me is I'm just about to start my first full-time teaching job, I'm working at a cemetery, I was a groundskeeper at a cemetery over the summer before then. And everyday I would come home, obviously tired, and we lived in this old house in Des Moines, and we had this wonderful screened-in porch, this old house with this wonderful screened-in porch. We had this comfy futon and everyday after I came home, I'd just come curl up on the futon and I'd read a book. And one of the books that I read that summer that really shaped my trajectory as an educator was Neil Postman's "Teaching as a Subversive Activity". And I think, for me, I...

0:11:55.8 CM: Awesome. This is my number 11.

0:11:58.3 NC: Oh, okay. Yeah. I was just drawn to the title just because, just being in that vein anyway, like, "Oh hey, teaching a... What does this have to offer?" And then realizing that this book came out, I think in the 1970s, 1971. It's decades old now, but it reads like it could have come out yesterday, just in terms of Postman's perspective on what schools could be. His book was the original version of that, of the Dintersmith's, of the reimagine education, and frankly, there's been very little innovation on that theme since. We're re-hashing Postman's ideas in all of this, he's the original one there. But the thing that really stuck with me is just the way that he captures those ideas of project-based learning, really, before that was a thing. Before the idea of design thinking as applied to learning is really hashed out, before you had PBL works providing those tools.

0:13:01.2 NC: Because his belief, first and foremost, was that you should have kids involved in doing important work and being connected to the community, and answering important questions and all those other kinds of things. So, yeah, that has been a book that has just stuck with me and I've even gone back to it a couple of more times just to refresh my memory every now and then, and it is just striking how recent it sounds and how radical his ideas still even are today. I suppose in that regard then, there's a little bit of the... There's the optimist side where, "Yeah, we can re-imagine education in different ways," and also, I suppose on the pessimistic side of that it's, "Wow, we really haven't changed things a whole lot since the 1970s." So yeah, I would say Postman is a must-read for anyone wanting to get into progressive education, get a little bit of the history, get a little bit of the historical perspective and then apply that to stuff today.

0:13:58.7 CM: Yeah. It's a great book. The only reason why it's not on my list is that there's another book that's very similar that I have coming up that I personally like a little bit more, but I think that that book is definitely solid, that's definitely on my bookshelf of must-reads. Alright. Moving into my number nine, this is my last fringe one, [chuckle] the rest of them are a lot more mainstream progressive. But this is...

0:14:20.7 NC: Yeah, sure.

0:14:22.6 CM: Yeah. This is the book that surprised me the most, and it's very fringe when I picked it up, and I actually reviewed this as an education book, even though it's not published as one. It's a book called "Manufacturing Happy Citizens" by Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz, I believe, is how you pronounce it. And the subtitle is "How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control Our Lives". So this book outlines the growth of the Happiness Movement, which you see a lot in Corporate America especially. And it traces back the research and funding of happiness studies, so studies that focus on those apps on your phone that tell you how to be happier today and give you daily mantras where they teach you how to do yoga, to relax, etcetera. And it connects that to the increasing exploitation of the working class, and how more and more corporate entities are paying for these happiness camps and happiness stipends, etcetera, while simultaneously making you work more and more. So the systemic issue of corporate exploitations there with a band-aid of happiness research, and they take it one step further by highlighting how the APA and other scientific organizations were basically paid off by corporations because the same people that fund these studies are the same people that own these massive organizations that want those studies to be true. So it's...

0:16:00.7 NC: Okay.

0:16:00.9 CM: It's interesting 'cause it reminds me a lot of what goes on in global warming where large corporations will pay against the science, but in this case, the science around happiness research is skewed the other direction. The "real studies" that highlight the issues with these apps, the issues with these programs get buried because we live in a society that values money over all else. The reason why I think this matters as an education book, however, is that it talks a lot about SEL and mindfulness. In fact, half the book is about the science behind SEL and mindfulness and what it actually means to be content, and what it actually means to be happy. And the thesis is essentially that we need systemic reform, both in schools and in workplaces so that people don't need apps or programs to be content. It reminds me a lot of how in schools, you'll find, during standardized testing week, they might have a movie night or yoga in the morning, or a dance competition or something to lessen the edge off.

0:17:09.4 CM: But of course, there has to be the question like, "If we know it leads to all of the stress and anxiety, why are we not changing the test itself? Why do we need to apply a band-aid fix?" The shocking part of a lot of the work that we do as educators, and it leads to a lot of burnout, is we're constantly looking for ways to circumvent the issues with the system while not looking at those systemic issues to begin with, because we feel like we're powerless to control them. The standardized testing industry is huge, but there's also things like grades and discipline and purpose, all these other things that we talk about on our podcast and through our organization that are massive hills to climb. But until those underlying issues are solved, you're just... You're working like Sisyphus, you need something to change that overall idea. But yeah, this book blew my mind. It's so clear on exactly what all these issues are, and it highlights the BS, especially in the ed tech industry, and why we need to know about it. That's my number nine.

0:18:11.9 NC: The throughline through this is that individualization of systemic problems. Happiness... If you just looked at the United States, just generally, the economic system, our commutes and the way that we manage transportation, our healthcare systems, work just generally, the stress that parents are under, especially as working parents and trying to balance their child's activities and their family with their work-life balance. All of those things combine to produce people that are generally angsty, anxious, and unhappy. And there is a cottage industry in managing your own mental health and managing your happiness, and while that is certainly part of it, I think a lot of, even modern research around the use of prescription drugs and pharmaceuticals around depression and anxiety and those kinds of things recognize that those don't... Those make it easy for you to adapt to those kinds of things, but they don't address... The problem is systemic, the problem exists in the world, not in the individual. And, yeah, the throughline through education there is, well, we do a lot of the same stuff in education, we individualize rather than look at systemic reform to see why things are or are not working or are producing adverse outcomes in a lot of other ways. That's a good one, I haven't read that, no.

0:19:40.6 CM: Yeah. Two quick things about it. One, it definitely covers the corporatization of the happiness industry, like, "Why is it that we need to feel like we are happy all the time? Why can't we just be content, and why can't we normalize the fact that sometimes it's okay to be sad and depressed?" Because advertising agencies will make you think that the solution to everything is just gonna blow all your problems away with money. The second thing that it reminds me of is, and I'm sure every educator has had to do one of these, is the professional development over work-life balance. The perfect example of adding on something that makes no sense. I'll never forget going into a PD where I had to, on a large exercise ball, balance myself on it to symbolize the idea of a work-life balance in a three-hour PD on a day I could have had off. So the irony is just there. Alright.

0:20:35.9 S?: Eight.


0:20:39.4 CM: They only get more intense as time goes on.

0:20:41.1 NC: Okay. It makes me feel... Yeah, it's like I got a kill streak in CS GO or something is what this is.

0:20:45.0 CM: It's a very good role. Yeah.

0:20:46.0 NC: Alright. So we're at number eight. Well... Okay. So continuing in my trajectory, I want to say, it was around the same time. So 2012 is when I would have encountered Postman for the first time. Teach for a couple of years, start to feel who I am in the classroom, and how I'm interacting with students, how I wanna build the courses that I'm teaching. And then sometime in the early 2018s, encountering Starr Sackstein's "Hacking Assessment". And this was the first book that I had ever approached that, even approached the idea of gradeless learning, or going gradeless, and how to structure things differently. And this actually led to practical... Whereas, Postman and some of the other books I'm talking about here lead to those theoretical changes, Sackstein's book was what I needed to be like, "Okay, how do I do this in practice? How can I put Postman's vision," which I, again, had no concept of progressive education at the time, "into practice?" And Sackstein's book gives you that language and some of those tools, for feedback, for portfolios, for student-driven conferences, for project-based learning, and broke my paradigm of... And I taught in a very kind of traditional suburban school, when kids were used to just the chapter quiz, chapter quiz, chapter quiz, unit test, chapter quiz, chapter quiz, unit test.

0:22:07.3 NC: And as I progressed as an educator and learned more, not only the dissatisfaction with the way that I felt that that was going in terms of not really challenging students, not being particularly memorable or engaging for kids who really didn't care about history, so that really was a turning point for me to grab on to and say, "Well, hey, what if I dumped that old model and tried something new?" And really, every year since reading Starr Sackstein's book has just been iteration on that theme, trying to incorporate student feedback into instruction and assessment, and then working in the various self-grading tools and all those things that Starr Sackstein gave. A couple of years ago, we actually did a summit with Starr, we've since talked with her on a lot of issues, and it's just really been coming full circle. Those conversations just give me so much joy to know that she is still doing that work. And I think she might even have a new updated edition of "Hacking Assessment" coming out in the next year. I don't know exactly when, but I remember talking to her about that a couple of months ago. So yeah, that has to be on any progressive educator's reading list.

0:23:14.8 CM: That's a great thing. Yeah, I didn't even... Apologies to Starr Sackstein, I didn't even think of that book. I don't know if I would have put it in my top 10, but it'd be pretty close. That's a very strong book. But all the Hacking books are pretty darn good, but the "Hacking Assessment" book definitely is the standout on solo strategic ways to incorporate some of these ideas. Alright. So, my number eight is the arguably fringe one, but I don't think it should be fringe. The other two I get why you might look at those like, "That's not a progressive ed book." I think this is a progressive ed book, and it's just something that we don't talk often enough about. And it's the weird system on the 20 systems diagram of HRP of actions towards systemic change, the one that everyone's like, "Why is that in there?"

0:24:05.7 NC: I know exactly what this is gonna be.

0:24:09.8 CM: Every single day when you go to school, and every single person had to deal with this pretty much no matter what school they went to, at around, at least in my case, 10:30 AM, you eat lunch. And typically, unless you go to a pretty well-funded school, the lunch kind of sucks. You might have an option for a few fried options, gruel. I remember kids would eat potato chips everyday and pizza because they didn't wanna touch the food. Anyways, all of this to say, my number eight book is called "The Labor of Lunch: Why We Need Real Food and Real Jobs in American Public Schools" by Jennifer E. Gaddis. So this remains not only one of my favorite books on progressive ed, but my favorite podcast that we've ever done at Human Restoration Project. I don't remember how long ago this was, I wanna say it's in '16. Two or maybe three years ago, we had Jennifer on. And this book blew my mind.

0:25:07.5 CM: So this book is about tracing the history of the lunch room back to the very beginnings of public school in the United States, way back in the early 1900s, and how lunch worked, tracing it through both when it was locally sourced and parents would come in and make the food, all the way up until now, where in the last... I believe it's 20 or 30 years, we saw more and more contracts with these massive mega corporations that essentially can provide food services through cheaper means, arguably, through these really extended contracts. Basically, you're buying in bulk, if you sign up for five or 10 years it's cheaper, than if you were to contract it out year by year. Now, what's interesting is, and the reason why it blew my mind, is that it presents evidence that it's actually far cheaper to utilize smaller farm-to-table methods through unionized or worker collectives to supply the food, far cheaper, like 60¢ on a dollar.

0:26:14.9 CM: The organization that you would learn more about this from would be Chef Ann Foundation, who, if Chef Ann Foundation's ever listening to this, I wanna have you on the podcast 'cause you never respond. But Chef Ann Foundation is an awesome org, and it's mentioned multiple times in this book, they work with schools to bring about farm-to-table meals. And there are numerous reasons why this is important. One, it's cheaper, but two, it's healthier and the kids actually wanna eat the food. And there's an argument there for, "Why are we not treating lunch like it's part of the school day?" And I don't mean make a curriculum out of it, I mean learn experientially by having lunch. I think about that Michael Moore documentary "Where to Invade Next", which I always used to show the lunch segment, because this came up in one of my history classes way back in the day.

0:27:03.9 NC: I never saw that. Yeah.

0:27:05.0 CM: So it's a tongue-in-cheek movie about... It's Michael Moore, so it has a slant. But it's a tongue-in-cheek film about what countries to invade to steal their ideas. His thesis is like, "America wants to invade everywhere, why don't we invade places like France in order to steal their free healthcare? Or Italy for their massive long vacation days?" And the one that I always showed was in France, their public school system, they have a three-course to five-course meal every single time they have lunch, with real silverware, professional chefs, everything... They're eating charcuterie boards and salmon for lunch. And the idea is, one, kids learn table manners because they use real silverware and they sit at the table all together, so they're learning how to eat properly, it is France. Two, they have a very balanced nutritional diet. And as probably any parent knows, when you're super young, like first grade, second grade, third grade, kindergarten, that's when you wanna expose your kids to a lot of different types of food.

0:28:15.2 CM: So they give them a lot of different flavor profiles. That way, kids don't just get hooked on chicken tenders when they're young, they're used to eating tilapia. And it's not like so fishy. So they learn about how to eat different things. And then finally, they teach them what a balanced meal looks like. They drink water or some water-based type thing like Gatorade, like Gatorade Zero or whatever, they drink up, or they eat healthy snacks like fruit, and they're also full for the rest of the day, which is a novel concept. I remember going through school and starving, because I would never wanna eat anything. And also, our lunch time was so early, and they have an hour-long lunch as an extended break. So all of that to say, that's really a long-winded explanation of the fact that we should be looking at lunch as a cornerstone system in progressive ed. It is not a throwaway just for the middle of the day, that is a real part of the school day, and we should be looking at ways to think deeper about that. So my number eight is "The Labor of Lunch" by Jennifer E. Gaddis.

0:29:15.9 NC: Yeah. This just became an episode about that book, if we just would've let [chuckle] Chris keep going.

0:29:21.9 CM: I could keep going. I love that book.

0:29:23.9 NC: Yeah. It is so fascinating just to think about my own... I feel like seventh grade, I have very vivid memories of lunch for some reason. I don't know why. Beforehand, afterwards, it is what it is. But seventh grade, I remember, there was an a la carte line that you could get Little Debbie snack cakes in, and you could get milkshakes, and you could get... You could send your kid to school with five bucks and they would have two Zebra Cakes and a milkshake, and call it good and never have to touch anything that's not mass-produced junk food. Yeah, it's absolutely insane how we can't seem to synchronize transforming school systems with the food systems and connecting the dots to student health and cognitive growth and their health and well-being in their learning communities as well. What a bizarre thing.

0:30:15.3 CM: Sure. Alright.

0:30:16.5 S?: Seven.

0:30:19.0 NC: Okay. Alright. So seven is... If I was ranking this list based on books that were the most impactful, Alfie Kohn's "The Schools Our Children Deserve" would probably be at or near the top of that list. Again, thinking in my chronology, Starr Sackstein's book giving some practice and some protocols and some ideas and things to try out, and I tried out a lot of them, but Kohn's work is really rooted more in summarizing, anthologizing the research and actually putting a skeleton and the outline on this idea of progressive education. And so it really was after I read Alfie Kohn's "The Schools Our Children Deserve" that I started to perhaps identify more as a progressive educator and really knowing what it is. 'Cause the book is, again, it's an anthology of a lot of his different ideas on grades, on standardized assessment, on... God, you name it. Discipline practices, all of those. And probably if I were to thumb through this book, there's gonna be underlines, and yup, dog-eared pages with excerpts that I thought were particularly powerful. Yeah.

0:31:31.3 NC: And again, these are all separate essays that are available elsewhere, but just to have them all in one thing. I remembered sharing some excerpts with my instructional coach at the time and just being like, "Did you have any idea that this was even possible, that you could do discipline a different way or that you could do some of this moving beyond grades?" Yeah. His essay in here from... What is it called? From "Degrading to De-Grading" is still, probably HRP all-time classic. If we do PD on ungrading, that is our go-to essay there. So, yeah, Kohn just getting... Putting a holistic framework on progressive education and, yeah, coming at a very important time in my career too. It was after that, I suppose, that radicalized me to be like, "Man, why do we do anything the way that we do it?" and the benefits from that, and etcetera, etcetera. So, it's good.

0:32:29.2 CM: I think Kohn is probably the most well-known writer that brings people into the progressive education field. You pretty much can't talk to a progressive educator without Kohn coming up at some point. I think the reason is, is that his work is very accessible. Not only is it all free, but there's not a lot of fluff. And my main issue with a lot of education books is that there's too many stories, there's too many just like 10 pages of just background information, just tell me the things I need to know. And Kohn is very research-heavy, he's very... He's not very personable. And I don't mean that as an insult, it's just the way it's written. It's very factual and to the point.

0:33:10.6 NC: Down to business.

0:33:12.2 CM: Yeah, and I like that. I've always tried to emulate that in the stuff that we put out too, that it's not story-driven, it's just, there's no emotional connection. When you're reading this, it's like, "This is why it works. Here you go. Done." And you can fill in your own stories a lot as you go. So yeah, I'm with you.

0:33:28.4 NC: It is wild to think too that Alfie Kohn was such a high-profile... He was a public figure. He was on Oprah. He was a household name in the 1990s, and it's wild to think of who that could even be today. Even somebody like Tony Wagner or Ted Dintersmith, or think of the pantheon of edu celebrities today, can't even touch where Alfie Kohn was in the 1990s. And it just is wild to me how we've moved so far in that other direction. Here's this voice that came out against these tough standard, very rigorous curriculums in the classroom, but also talk to parents about parenting styles and talk to... Just was a social critic at the same time. Just wild to think of how his career has gone. And I wonder what the next book he's gonna put out is. I haven't seen him put out new material in a long time, I'll be curious to follow-up with him on that.

0:34:31.4 CM: Yeah. Well, I think it connects well to my number seven, and this might be a crossover later on, I'm not sure. But my number seven is "Timeless Learning: How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-Based Thinking Change Schools" by Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and Chad Ratliff. "Timeless Learning", to me, is like Alfie Kohn the workbook. While Alfie Kohn might present all the research and give you sometimes almost a cynical look, because you'll read through it, it just feels like the world's collapsing in because there's all these issues and there's all this research to support it. "Timeless Learning" presents similar information, but also gives you essentially hope. It gives you discussion questions, it gives you activities to do.

0:35:18.4 CM: It is very much designed as something that you would use in a professional development environment to incorporate progressive education. Specifically, it brings up that concept of zero-based thinking, like, "What would you do in a classroom if there was no existing norms? If all of these systems weren't there, what would you do?" And it makes you think a lot about, "How can we do things differently?" Also, the foreword's really good, the foreword's written by Yong Zhao, who is on our board. I've always been a huge fan of Pam and Ira and Chad and the work that they're doing, because not only are they writing about this, but all of them worked in public schools. They were public school administrators.

0:35:57.0 NC: They have done the work.

0:35:58.5 CM: Yes, they actually have a real thing. I'll never forget reading about Ira Socol's gym program. It obviously isn't his, but at a school, where they transformed the often stressful curriculum-based gym program where everyone does the same thing and you go get changed into your growth shorts and you run a mile around the track or whatever, which doesn't inspire kids who aren't healthy to all of a sudden be healthy.

0:36:23.3 NC: Lifelong fitness advocates.

0:36:24.7 CM: I'm a living example. Yes. Instead, they convert it to be more of a gym-type environment where there's all these different options between games and gym equipment. So if you're someone who's on the football team, you can lift, and you can log and learn good form, etcetera. Or if you're someone who spent all day playing video games, maybe you can play a game with your friends that involves physical activity, or you're hiking or walking around, things that aren't as strenuous, that aren't as repetitive, but still involve healthy lifestyles. There's a lot of ideas like that in this book that really shift your pedagogy. And so, yeah, "Timeless Learning" by Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and Chad Ratliff.

0:37:06.4 NC: And that one is just the best because of exactly that reason. I don't know if Alfie Kohn was ever a classroom teacher, right, but he's approaching things from one lens. But...

0:37:17.8 CM: He taught for a few years, yeah.

0:37:18.9 NC: The authors of "Timeless Learning", they're talking about all the things that they've done. So when people critique progressive education and say, "Oh, that would never work," or, "This is not feasible. This isn't possible." They're like, "The hell, it isn't. We've done this. This is the example of what I've done in my school," when Pam Moran was the superintendent, Ira Socol as a teacher of the district, Chad Ratliff, the makerspace programs that they've created, just the way that they approach the physical design of the building to support learners in that too, it's just... Again, it's such a holistic perspective, but they're like, "We've actually done the work and put it into practice. Here it all is. You can decide for yourself if you think it works or not, or if this sounds like a better vision than what kids are used to." So, such a powerful example. And you know what? I did not put that on my list 'cause I figured you were gonna do that.

0:38:08.2 CM: Oh, I see.

0:38:08.7 NC: I'm glad that I didn't, so we have an extra one up here.

0:38:11.7 CM: I thought for sure that would be a crossover.

0:38:13.5 NC: No.

0:38:13.9 S?: Six.

0:38:15.9 NC: Six. Oh, okay. Okay, cool. Now, this one, I actually tried to go back through and pick some methods books, which is weird because these are not people who would be progressive household names, these probably aren't even writers and researchers who would consider themselves progressive educators or whatever. But this was an interesting book that, again, came to me at an interesting time. I was taking a license renewal class X number of years into my career, and took a course, a licensed real course over this book from Jim Burke. It's called "What's the Big Idea? Question-Driven Units to Motivate Reading, Writing, and Thinking". And so, again, a frustration with the curriculum is that it's so atomized into lists of things that you have to memorize and then test about, etcetera. This really just strips it all away and asks that question, "Okay, what's the big idea? How can we reformulate our units of instruction, the things that we might consider as learning progressions, not around the content of a text book, but around what matters? What is the core concept here? What's the big picture question that we're gonna have our kids answer? And then what artifacts are we gonna gather along the way?"

0:39:25.7 NC: It really is like a design-thinking book applied to conceptual learning. And it really was as a result of reading this book that I did just that. I went back through my world history units and I just, I reworked them around those big essential questions. And one of the more powerful things, one of the more powerful units that came out about that was, for our imperialism unit, I thought I had good activities and things for it, for imperialism unit, but it really just followed the course of the textbook and yada yada. And I was just like, "Okay, I'm gonna throw all of that out... " This is years and years later. "I'm gonna throw that all out and I'm gonna rework it around this big question, what should we do with the artifacts in the British Museum?" And then organizing the entire unit around documents and virtual explorations, op-eds, both sides, exploring those things.

0:40:19.3 NC: And the end result was students having to justify, and curate their own portfolio. It was like, "Create your own DBQ." You select documents, artifacts, and things, and you use those to make your case for what we should do with them, "Should we give artifacts back? Should we... " All different kinds of things. And just framing it in that question, the discussions that we had, and it was such a deeper learning experience than some of the things... Again, good activities that students had done successfully well on in the past, just reshaping that into that bigger picture thing. That's just one example. But I found just, the learning was a lot more engaging, I was more engaged in it too, and really, it pushed my boundaries as a resource curator, 'cause I couldn't rely on the old tools and textbooks and things that I had. I really had to branch out into that area. So, a good book, Jim Burke, "What's the Big Idea?"

0:41:22.9 CM: I wonder if that's where Dan Kearney got the name for his podcast from. Shoutout to Dan. The podcast, "What's the Big Idea?" is a very good podcast.

0:41:31.9 NC: It is. And the podcast gets to the same thing, right? Just drill down to the essentials, what are you gonna do? And again, since it's a methods book, it has just real practical... It has examples of organizers and protocols, and "Here's how you can get kids to ask big picture questions."

0:41:47.1 CM: Yeah. And segue alert...

0:41:49.6 NC: Yeah.

0:41:49.8 CM: So, my number six is quite similar. I actually see it very similar to my last pick, which was "Timeless Learning", because it's written in a very similar way, but it's also got a lot of practical stuff in there that you can actually use. This is, I think, the newest book on my list by a mile, because I think it came out last year, maybe two years ago, and that is "Equity Centered Trauma Informed Education" by a friend of the show, Alex Venet, who was on our podcast not too long ago, talking about, I believe it was actually on this book, it might have been when it first came out. "Equity Centered Trauma Informed Education" is one of those books where every single time I read it, I was like, "Did we write this book?" because it's so similar to everything that it is that we're talking about. To me, it's a perfect connection between the "Manufacturing Happy Citizens" book, which is about the issues with mindfulness programs. With "Timeless Learning", which is a book that talks about "How do you actually build a school that incorporates progressive education?" This book talks about "How do you build classrooms in schools that are trauma-informed?"

0:42:57.2 CM: And Alex's primary argument throughout the entire book is, "We need to be looking at underlying systems that cause trauma and that cause inequity as opposed to putting band-aids on things." So she runs through, one, "What does it mean to be trauma-informed?" which is not only an important topic, but it's one of those things that I personally find it hard to get PD on, at least PD that gets this deep, that isn't just those tacked on programs. And it also dives into, "How does an everyday teacher combat inequity in the classroom when there's all of these different forces and imperialist, capitalist, hegemonic ideas that are just located in everything that we do?" It not only offers an explanation of all those things, but again, it offers activities you can do, it offers templates, it offers discussion questions. It is very much designed to be a PD book, and therefore, it's something that everyone could use to think critically about their practice. So, yeah, I love that book. It's definitely worth a pick-up, if only just because it's so timely. It's written post-pandemic, so it has that context. That's "Equity-Centered Trauma-Informed Education" by Alex Venet.

0:44:15.2 NC: Great book. And Alex is an amazing person, great learner. Her energy and engagement and curiosity, it always bounces off onto me whenever we have interactions too. So, love Alex's work too. Alright, what's next?

0:44:31.3 S?: Five.

0:44:34.7 NC: This episode is gonna be... [chuckle] This is gonna be five hours long. Okay. So number five, this is another methods book, again, I'm trying to go for some cuts that I thought may be useful again in my trajectory, coming off of "What's the Big Idea?" Another... You can tell this is around my license renewal time, so I had to gobble up all these credits. And to be frank, I was not expecting to get as much out of either of these as I was. You do the license renewal credits as a formality, and it just is what it is. I try to pick some things that I thought were more aligned to me, but you never know how that's gonna go. So my next one is actually from authors John Antonetti and James Garver, and it's "17,000 Classroom Visits Can't Be Wrong: Strategies That Engage Students, Promote Active Learning and Boost Achievement". And one other...

0:45:25.5 NC: Yeah, yeah, I know, right? Again, it was a book study class around this. And the reason why I picked this is because this came about at a time too, where we were engaged in a lot of curriculum conversations that that word "rigor" kept popping up. And our district was using Bloom's taxonomy to root all of these conversations, and I found it so limiting just because they treated Bloom's as a ladder where you'd have to start with these bays and proceed through all these things. And in my opinion, it made our unit planning suck, and made it boring and it made it... Students had to jump through a lot of unnecessary hoops to get to the meaningful important things because you're like, "No, they have to memorize these vocabulary words first," and I hated it. Okay. I'm great to have on curriculum review, by the way. But this [chuckle] actually came with, and built their book around this powerful task rubric for designing student work.

0:46:23.8 NC: And so, really it was picking... As you go through a unit of study and as you go to design like, "Hey, here's what we're gonna have students do with this," instead of saying, "It's gonna be based on this Bloom's ladder or this Bloom's hierarchy or whatever, it's gonna be based on these three qualities: Cognitive demand, academic strategies and engaging qualities." And then it ranks them in a one, two, three or four, and their rigor divide actually is then a cross-section of all of those skills. So we would just say, "Okay." At the highest end of things, the instruction or the assessment part that you're evaluating would have students evaluate or create. That's the only Bloom's interaction, everything else says comparing patterns or adding, combining or ignoring patterns, extending thinking, doing mathematics, compare and contrasting, personalizing or making unique decisions about content, creating a new representation, identify and extend patterns, explain and defend or justify ideas... "

0:47:30.9 CM: Sounds lot of like our interdisciplinary subject work we're doing where it's like...

0:47:33.6 NC: It so is, yes. So it actually takes all of... It takes domain of knowledge, it takes a lot of these other frameworks and synthesizes those things together and says, "Okay, rigorous tasks should have you learning with others, and should rely on interdependence instead of independence." It should have a sense of audience. The lowest form is gonna be just an audience of yourself, or a partner, or the class. The highest one is an audience I want to influence. There's an element of intellectual and emotional safety. In a low-cognitive or a low-rigorous task, those are not required, but in a highly rigorous task, those are expression of concepts or recognized patterns or the expression of supported opinions of new ideas. So it just gives us such a new and powerful lens to look at that word "rigor" in education, not just through the tired old crappy Bloom's, but actually synthesizing what we actually know about rigorous work and drawing a line around there.

0:48:38.9 NC: So I really had to go back and re-evaluate some of my own work around this, and what's funny is that a lot of progressive instruction and assessment practices align more heavily on this... On the powerful task rubric for designing student work, than traditional test and forget methodologies that are considered more rigorous because, what, they stress students out more and more kids do poorly on them. But... Yeah. So that was really both validating, I suppose, and also just gave this... So I brought this framework to the table and having those curriculum conversations. And it has Bloom's, but we're gonna look at some of these other things too. Unbelievable to me that somebody making six figures as a curriculum director can't do better than Bloom's taxonomy. Give me a break.

0:49:30.0 CM: Yeah. What's that one called again?

0:49:32.2 NC: Oh, that is called "17,000 Classroom Visits Can't Be Wrong". And I believe John Antonetti and I are mutuals on Twitter too. So shoutout to John, your book's great.

0:49:41.9 CM: Get him on... Get him on the podcast.

0:49:43.3 NC: Yeah. [chuckle]

0:49:44.8 CM: Yeah. That's one of those things where it's like, "Do we reclaim the term or not, like 'rigor'?" Like growth mindset, where it's like one of those things where, originally it probably wasn't that problematic, and then the way it was co-opted and used, this is especially the case with Carol Dweck's work, became more and more problematic and now there's a pushback on using that term in a different way. I don't really have strong feelings one way or another on it. I just know that... It is undeniable the challenge of what you're tasked to do in a progressive ed classroom is more difficult. Pre-play, for example, in elementary school is way harder than a worksheet, it's way more cognitively demanding and you're gonna learn a lot more. So despite how some of these things might be perceived, the research is there. My number five is a crossover. My number five is "The Schools Our Children Deserve" by Alfie Kohn. And it could really be any Alfie Kohn education book like, what's the one about no contest, which gets into a standardized testing? The case against... I can't member the names of any of his books. The one that's the case against like praise or whatever it is, the one that gets in on that whole thing.

0:51:08.2 NC: Oh, yes. Yep. "Punished by Rewards" maybe. Is that what you're thinking?

0:51:11.2 CM: "Punished by Rewards". There's another one too that gets into...

0:51:13.3 NC: Okay. Or is that a different one? Oh, okay.

0:51:13.9 CM: I can't remember. He's written a lot of stuff. Regardless, every Alfie Kohn book is pretty darn good. I think "The Schools Our Children Deserve", and you probably have already covered it really, I think that that book is the most generalized and the one that best explains what progressive education is. This is one of the two books on my list that really got me into this kind of stuff. It was very much a stepping stone towards some more, I guess, intense work on progressive ed. But I think "The Schools Our Children Deserve" by Alfie Kohn is just a classic. And since you already spoke about it, I'll just leave it at that.

0:51:47.0 NC: Alright.

0:51:48.2 S?: Four.


0:51:50.5 NC: So four for me is not a... It's not a newer book. I think it came out about 2006, which the context for that is very interesting. So if we imagine we're... By 2006, we're half a decade into the No Child Left Behind experiment, we're in the midst of the... And everything else that came along with it, right, the "No-Excuses" charter schools movement and the expansion of all of those... That infrastructure across the country. And so this book is Jonathan Kozol's "The Shame of the Nation", who of course you're speaking with for a podcast episode here in a couple of months which is incredible...

0:52:29.0 CM: This is my number 11 or number 12. This was on my original list.

0:52:32.6 NC: Okay, okay. And so I came late to the game.

0:52:36.8 NC: I read this 10 years after it came out. And the sub-header of that, the subtitle is "The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America". And Kozol's always been on the forefront of showing what the life is like in schools for kids at the margins. And what was so striking about this book to me was just how he contrasts, the schools that we justify giving to kids in low-performing schools, so those are ones attended primarily by low-income students, by Black and Brown communities, maybe by immigrant communities, etcetera, and justifying the discipline structures that are associated with them too. So you have the "No-Excuses" model that... I don't know if Kozol uses this language. We would consider those things like a carceral pedagogy today. And I don't know if Kozol uses that language.

0:53:31.1 CM: Sure. Yeah.

0:53:32.9 NC: But he says in that book, we know what good schools look like. We just give them to rich White people. And none of those people would stand a day putting their White kids in the kinds of buildings that we give to poor families, to Black families and their children. And they would not stand a day for the kinds of discipline practices, exclusion, etcetera, that get lauded in that. And he has a lot of different case studies in there, and obviously his is also very rooted in that sociological ethnography. He visited a lot of these buildings, he's telling their stories. And it was just like a wake-up call to me in that context 'cause I don't think I had read an author, a modern author, write about that apartheid schooling that would exist in the 21st century. And of course, we know today that schools are more segregated now than they have been since. I think the peak was maybe the 1980s, post-Brown v. Board, and it's just been on a downhill slide since then. So, yeah, a great book looking at the structure of schools and school funding and schooling conditions from Jonathan Kozol.

0:54:51.0 CM: One of the authors I'm about to mention actually connects with that really well 'cause he also talks about apartheid schooling. Really quick though, this is not the book, but the work of Jonathan Kozol, I think, is very much highlighted even further with Bill Ayers's recent work, the "You Can't Fire the Bad Ones!", which is Bill Ayers and two other people whose names I'm blanking on right now. But it's 18... It's like one of those books where it's like 18 myths and they have number one myth, and then they talk about it, and then there's like 10 pages about that and why they debunk it. And it talks about one of the myths that's specifically about this idea of, "We can't build better public schools, because the fact of the matter is there are public schools that do this cool stuff, they're just for the rich kids." I remember on the podcast we did with Bill Ayers, he expressed frustration that all of the book bannings and censorship, and this was before the more modern censorship, that only happens pretty much in public schools. The private schools where all the rich kids go, they can read whatever they want and they have expansive libraries, but yet the poor students, the poor young people who have to go to public school or choose to even go to public school are stuck with all of this government/conservative backlash.

0:56:08.6 CM: So yeah, it's interesting. So for my number four, I cheated 'cause I put multiple books on number four. And the reason is, I feel like it doesn't really matter which one of these that you read. I just think that every progressive educator should read at least one of these kinds of books. And these are critical pedagogy, deep-dive books, the intense, things you would read for a master's or doctoral classroom 'cause it's probably not gonna be introduced in an undergraduate level course because they are quite intense. I chose one book by each of these authors that I think is their best, at least from what I've read, because each one of these people has 20 books. So this is, in my opinion, the best. But you could read any of them, it wouldn't matter. So the first is "On Critical Pedagogy" by Henry Giroux, which is just a modern critical pedagogy textbook. That's 2011-2012. It is intense. Read it. That's like over 400 pages, I'm pretty sure. But you will understand critical pedagogy if you read that book. And it's one of those books where you have to read every paragraph over and over 'cause it's like, "What in the world is he talking about?" If you want more accessible Giroux, read his most recent book which is the "Pedagogy in the Age of Resistance", I believe is what it's called. That just came out this year.

0:57:23.7 NC: Yeah, I have it. I read that.

0:57:25.3 CM: That's a much more mainstream book, but it's not as... In my opinion, it's not as deep. My second is "Schooling as a Ritual Performance: Toward A Political Economy of Educational Symbols and Gestures," Gestures, not Jesters, Gestures, by Peter McLaren.

0:57:42.9 NC: Okay.

0:57:44.5 CM: So, Peter McLaren's also in that critical pedagogy world. This book very much gets into the old-school, I think about Baba type stuff of the sign and the signee, assigning concept to words and symbols in schools. This book specifically catalogs and puts up tables of all of the things we do, and he doesn't describe it like this, but the myths of objectivity. Things we do to fill out the checklist, so we feel like we're doing something, but so much of what we do is just wasted time, and just upholding the status quo. So in my opinion, that's the best book by him. And then the final one on this list is "Culture and Power in the Classroom" by Antonia Darder. Who, Antonia Darder's gonna be on the podcast as well here pretty soon. Her work is primarily known for continuing the legacy of Paulo Freire.

0:58:34.6 CM: So Antonia Darder, a new Paulo Freire and was one of his proteges, she wrote... It's like Paulo Freire for the 21st century or something like that. In my opinion, "Culture and Power in the Classroom" is the most interesting one. The sub-header is "Educational Foundations for the Schooling of Bicultural Students". And specifically, this one dives into immigrant studies, ethnic studies, and educating immigrant youth. All of those authors, Giroux, McLaren, Darder, are all a lot more intense. Most of these books are quite long and heavy and very philosophical in language, but they teach you a lot about really deeply understanding this stuff. The only other author, I think, that's in this vein is Ira Shor. I own...

0:59:21.6 NC: Oh yeah.

0:59:23.2 CM: Eight Ira Shor books. And I think I've gotten through a total of 20 pages of all of them combined. I'm sure some people like Ira Shor, I just find it deathly boring. And that's saying something 'cause I actually like Giroux, and Giroux is a slow-read. But yeah, I think any one of the deep critical pedagogy books is a must at some point in someone's career.

0:59:43.9 NC: Cool. Are we at the top three now?

0:59:45.9 S?: Three.

0:59:48.8 NC: Okay. Oh God, it's getting real intense. [chuckle] It's like if Doom guy did the narration of these things. Now, again, to come back to this idea, 'cause I'm approaching it chronologically, this would be my number one best progressive education book. But in my timeline, it's number three because there are a couple more in the last couple of years that are very recent since 2020 that I actually think are top reads that everyone should read.

1:00:09.6 CM: Very interesting interpretation of a top 10 list, but that's okay.

1:00:14.3 NC: Well, I wanted to put a different spin on it. And I didn't wanna pick ones that you would overlap with too. So my number three is "The Book of Learning and Forgetting" by Frank Smith. And I want to say, it's so hard to nail down who recommended this to me. I wanna say maybe Nate Babcock on Twitter, but it got so many recommendations, I couldn't ignore it anymore. They were like, "What are you doing with your life? Stop reading whatever you're doing and get a copy of this book." I think the other part of it too is, a lot of these books, that aren't like methods books, they're hard to find, so it feels a little bit like you're getting your hands on something that you're not supposed to. It's got that subversive occult feel. And so, once I got it, this book is my most re-read, my most highlighted, my most everything. In my thinking about teaching and learning, there is a pre-Frank Smith and there is a post-Frank Smith where I read this book. And the big idea, the biggest idea I think here, he tackles that history of cognitive science, like, "How do we measure learning? What is a unit of learning?" and the early studies that try to nail those things down and where those shortcomings are. But then in a book that is all of 100 and...

1:01:34.1 CM: Well, let's see, not even before the notes, but it's all of 100 pages before you even get to the notes. So it's a very short read, but it's very approachable as well. The biggest thing is this notion of like, "We don't learn from the people that we are with or that we are around. We learn from the people that we identify with." And so that identity, he says, creates that opportunity for learning. And so it really was a game-changer for me in thinking, not so much of learning as lessons and cognitive management and classroom management, but really identity management. How do you get kids to identify as learners of a particular discipline? Or how do you get themselves to identify with a particular classroom culture? And he refers to these things as clubs. So he was like, "You've got the club of readers, you've got the club of all of these things, and they're gonna identify and perform in different ways and they're gonna wear clothes and they're gonna do all those things that identify them as being inducted into the club of readers and learners and writers and communicators, etcetera, and you just build that identity over your course of your life." But he also says too that, rather than be rejected, since human beings don't like rejection, we will reject those identities.

1:02:53.3 CM: So if we feel like we don't fit in to the club of readers or social studies or the various disciplinary silos, "I'm not good at science." What does that even mean? It means you don't identify in the ways of thinking that the club of science thinkers would do. I really refocused again, all of my classroom practices around this and be like, "Does this help bring students in to the club that I'm trying to creating or does it push students out? Does it help them identify as learners, as thinkers, as induct them into a disciplinary way of thinking? Or does it exclude them for X, Y and Z reasons?" And that concept was a game-changer for me. And I've done some PD around that concept as it relates to grades and grading, because those send fixed and damaging messages, not just about our learning, about our identity that, again, we choose to reject rather than be rejected by them. It's like that idea that, "You can't fire me, I quit." So kids disengage, disconnect from school, etcetera. This is the book that I could talk all day about, because it was such a game... So thank you to those on social media who recommended it to me, and I cannot recommend the book highly enough.

1:04:10.8 CM: Yeah, that's "The Book of Learning and Forgetting". Yeah, it's...

1:04:13.9 NC: Yes.

1:04:15.4 CM: That's a good book. I like that one as well. I'd probably put that in my top 25, I don't think I resonated with it as much as you, but I do see the importance of it as it were. I think it's a really good one. So in my top three, my number three is probably like the dark horse book, not because I don't think that it's a progressive education book, it definitely is. I just think this author has been overlooked. She's the person that both of us have connected with a lot, who I think is just, if not more relevant than Alfie Kohn, just as much as relevant as Henry Giroux, even like Paulo Freire, big names, but her work I never hear anyone mention it. And she just came out with a new book last year, and she continually write...

1:05:02.6 NC: I think I know who you're talking about here.

1:05:04.8 CM: Who do you think it is?

1:05:06.7 NC: Susan Engel.

1:05:07.1 CM: It is Susan Engel. So Susan Engel, I guess as a heads-up, used to be on our board, but the only reason why she was on our board is that we reached out after reading this specific book, and it blew my mind. That is "The End of the Rainbow: How Educating for Happiness Not Money Would Transform Our Schools". When I first picked up this book, I picked it up on a whim from the library when I was just going through the education rack and I was just like, "Oh, I've never seen this author before, I'm just gonna grab this and read it." And I don't think I've ever been more engaged with the work before. I read it all in one sitting, and it's like 250 pages long, and everything is... Sometimes I think Alfie Kohn gets criticized for coming across as sarcastic or elitist because he's just very direct in his opinions, his mantra or his persona feels very much like "If you're not doing this, you're doing something wrong," and it can feel bad to read. And I think some of the folks that identify with Kohn can be a little bit too intense on classroom teachers, or knowing a lot of the structures that teachers have to navigate. Susan Engel to me is more approachable Alfie Kohn. I personally would recommend Susan Engel over Alfie Kohn if I were trying to get someone into progressive education.

1:06:27.6 CM: This book features that very research-heavy stuff that you would find in an Alfie Kohn book while being a little bit more narrative-focused, but not in a fluffy way. It goes into Susan Engel's work as a child developmental psychologist, she's done a lot of studies with her students that are the actual studies that she references. And specifically "The End of the Rainbow" talks about our obsession with college and career readiness, about STEM education, about college prep, about AP classes, all of these things that would be considered that rat race of the classroom. And she dives into all of the reasons why a child developmental psychologist overwhelmingly say, "We should not be doing any of those things, and instead, we should just focus on making kids calm and content and having fun, and kids would learn not only the same, but more from being more relaxed and happy day-to-day." And you can see the throughline here between all of these books. I think a cornerstone of progressive education is understanding the connections between happiness and contentment, and learning, because for so many people, especially adults that aren't educators, folks that just grew up within the education system, they've normalized the idea that sending your kids to school is a necessary evil.

1:07:49.1 CM: That when you go through the classroom, you're gonna be bored, to suck it up, you have to deal with it, you have to pick yourself up by the boot straps. And my argument would be, no, that's not what education's supposed to be, it should be a place of wonder and joy and happiness, and democratic action. I should wanna go to school just like when I was in first grade, how I love to go into school, it should maintain that the entire way. But seriously, this book is so good, it also gets into the debates around research. Susan Engel gets into a lot of debates with cognitive scientists which are especially popular amongst more conservative or traditional educators, that would argue that we should do more – that we need the canon, that kid should just sit down and learn something that is more effective. And she dives into like, "Yes, that works great in a lab setting, but no one actually wants to learn in that environment in the old life because humans are not lab rats, they learn very complex ways, and there's a lot of other things we need to consider, like the social and emotional side of things that matter." If I were listening to this, if you have not read "The End of the Rainbow", you need to read that book tomorrow, that's a great book.

1:08:56.7 NC: Yeah. And any of Susan's work, yeah. The conversations we had with her when she was on the board, were just... She's another one too, where just, she's such a great communicator, and just has so much intelligence, and has such an ability to relate these complex ideas in such a relatable and powerful way. Yeah, so much appreciate Susan. What's really interesting too, is that the most recent wave... I was just talking to Jason Ablin about this yesterday, when we were discussing his book for the podcast, the most recent wave of cognitive neuroscience through Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is confirming those exact same things, that, the facts very much do, in fact, care about your feelings. In the sense of our feelings color, the way that we perceive information in that, the way learning and experiences are encoded in our brains, and that notion of embodied cognition, that we're not just brains and jars and measuring inputs and outputs, but that the rest of our body and the way that we feel in the world actually has a huge impact on our ability to learn and the way that we re-call information and how we put it into action. So yeah, she's ahead of her time on that work there.

1:10:14.3 CM: For sure. Alright.

1:10:15.7 S?: Two.

1:10:17.6 NC: Number two. Okay.

1:10:18.3 CM: We're close.

1:10:19.7 NC: So this one is...

1:10:20.4 CM: This is the part where everybody skipped ahead just to hear this part.

1:10:22.8 NC: Yeah, exactly. On the YouTube it'll say "The most watched part," if we get any views at all. But... [chuckle] But this book is fascinating to me for a couple of reasons, because it's a book that was written pre-pandemic, came out about a month before the world collapsed. So I think a lot of people got their hands on it. I think I got my hands on it maybe in late March of 2020. This was my first pandemic read. That was an actual hard read, not something that I'm just trying to distract myself from existential horror with, 'cause I was so excited to do this. Now, Kevin Gannon is somebody who we've talked with a lot for the podcast. He was, up until recently, teaching at Grand View College in Des Moines, very close to me, and so I was able to see him speak at an Iowa history teachers conference. Obviously, watched him in the documentary that he appeared in the "13th", about incarceration and the prison industrial complex. And so I just resonated a lot with his work as a historian, as a critical theorist, and all of those things. And so, when his book "Radical Hope" dropped in 2020...

1:11:36.4 NC: This was a book, again, that was written pre-pandemic, but that resonated with so many of the themes that we were then living through in the early part of the pandemic in 2020. One thing that I think has been really prescient about that message is, especially via now Henry Giroux, in the speech that he gave... The keynote that he gave at our conference Restore Humanity is echoing those same things, "Hope is a platform for action as opposed to creating... " Kevin borrows from this, this older... It's a Dutch pedagogue or something, with this notion of the classrooms of death. And that connects maybe even back to... I'm synthesizing it now, maybe with Frank Smith's, those clubs, are we creating classrooms of death? Which in the early part of the pandemic, of course, certainly resonated. But it was that idea of, that necrosis, that just, we can't do anything different, that we can't... That learners have to act and participate in certain ways, or could we create the opposite things and make classrooms that are generative of new ideas and new ways of being and new ways of learning and all of those things.

1:12:41.4 NC: The other idea that Kevin Gannon's book here really gave to me too, because he situates the beginning of it, and his impetus for writing was seeing the protest in Charlottesville in 2017, the Unite the Right rally there, because he frames it in that famous picture now where you have, in that torch march that they had where they were chanting "Jews will not replace us" as they're marching to the Robert E. Lee's statue there, is the face of this young man, and he's screaming and shouting, and became emblematic of that whole march. Now, that man was a student at the University of Nevada or our campus in Reno, Nevada. And his whole thing is like, "How can you... What good is an education, what good is a college education in particular, if you can go through that and proceed and make the decision to fly to Charlottesville and participate in a White nationalist rally? What is the point of that education?" And really, asking that question that, I've asked a lot ever since is, "What about our education is an inoculation against White supremacy and against White nationalism? And how do we make our classroom spaces and our institutional structures geared towards that de-radicalization?"

1:14:00.8 NC: And I think now, again, prescient in so many different ways, and so important, for another book that is 150 pages, just really packed so much of an emotional conceptual punch and really changed the whole way that I thought about things. And ironic then that a year later in 2021, probably about the same time as when... If you know my story of classroom teaching and the reasons that I left, it was teaching about the riot at Charlottesville that landed me in hot water because I wasn't playing both sides of the White nationalists, I was showing them in their own words, and I was showing the violence inherent in their presence in a pluralistic society. And some people in my community took outrage at that for some reason and started to...

1:14:49.5 CM: I wonder why.

1:14:51.2 NC: Yeah, I wonder why. Yeah, I asked my principal that same question, I was like, "Hey, you ever stop to think and maybe why, maybe why the people are mad that I call the Nazis bad? Huh, what could their motivations and intentions be?" Anyway, "Radical Hope", must read. Get your hands on it.

1:15:06.8 CM: Alright. We're on the same wavelength here, because my number two is very similar, however, it came out a few decades earlier. Paulo Freire is...That's a household name in the critical pedagogy world, which, fun fact, Henry Giroux coined the term "critical pedagogy." Paulo Freire doesn't actually use that word, even though he's considered to be the founder of critical pedagogy. That blew my mind when we were doing the...

1:15:33.8 NC: Oh, that's interesting.

1:15:35.4 CM: The conference. But regardless, I think most people... This is not my pick, most people think about "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" when they think of Paulo Freire.

1:15:44.7 NC: Yes.

1:15:45.9 CM: And I think when they think of "Pedagogy of the Oppressed", they think about... I think it's Chapter 3 is the chapter where it's like, the teacher is the creator or the students the produce... I don't remember the exact language, but it's that big, almost poetic style of binaries of someone producing and someone consuming. And I think that's a really powerful piece of the book. However, I don't really resonate with the rest of that book, it's very much situated in the world of Paulo Freire of connecting with adult learners in Brazil, which is his origin story. I think the more applicable book, and my favorite of the Paulo Freire books, this is my number two, is "Pedagogy of Hope". Speaking of "Radical Hope". "Pedagogy of Hope" to me is the book that, one, is needed more now than ever, because the book is about putting a more optimistic spin on "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". If you've read "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" you know that a lot of that book is about the perils of the poor, and the perils of those who do not have power, and it's Freire's argument for a critical... Even though it's, call it that, a critical pedagogy, where folks recognize and understand who has powers that they can equip themselves to have the tools toward... Really, overthrowing the ruling class is really what he's getting into. Freire is a Marxist.

1:17:07.8 CM: Now, a lot of that work is based on literacy. Freire is probably most well-known for developing an adult literacy program, so that folks had the wherewithal to navigate these waters. Importantly, not to be able to move up in society and become members of the ruling class, but to actually give the tools back to the people and convert into a new society. And this is the part of the conversation where the folks get freaked out 'cause they're like, "Wait, what are you talking about?" But the fact of the matter is, is that, in my opinion, schooling should be about creating a better world, not preparing people for the world that exists. And to me, a better world is one without poverty, that to me should be obvious, but it sadly is not, 'cause if you're gonna eliminate poverty, you will have to take something from those that have all the power. It doesn't mean that you have to convert to a communist society, it just means that you have to have a society that is more equal. The reason why "Pedagogy of Hope" is interesting that it's written decades after "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". I believe at this point, Freire is living either in Europe or North America. I wanna say he's living in the United States at this point, 'cause he was chased out of Brazil for his teachings.

1:18:16.5 CM: And it is a look-back at "Pedagogy of the Oppressed", he revises a lot of the work that was in the original and puts more of a hopeful, optimistic twist on it, he talks about why this work is needed and why progressive educators shouldn't give up. This was a guy who, basically, his life was destroyed, he was run out by the government, by a super right-wing authoritarian government for preaching these very socialist messages, and he was forced to flee, and basically all of his programs collapsed. And he was not necessarily... Not a well-off guy. Sadly, progressive pedagogies don't make you a lot of money. So he wrote "Pedagogy of Hope" to provide teachers with tools and ideas for incorporating this at the classroom level, what it looks like, why it's important. To me, this is one of those books that you go back to when you feel very cynical about education. Because I think another misnomer in this field is that everyone is upset all the time, this is true of progressive politics as well, where it feels like you're always fighting against something, it feels like you're always up against something and that hope can easily be lost.

1:19:26.8 CM: And Freire in his later works, also "Teachers As Cultural Workers". "The 12 Letters To Teachers", I think is what it's called. And talks a lot about how, the moment at which you have hope is the moment at which you have power. And the best tool you have to fight back against something outside of wealth or outside of literacy or knowledge, is the ability to imagine a different world, which is something that comes up a lot in Giroux's work as well. And our ability to have that radical joy as the books talks about, as well as Bettina Love... So all of that to say, "Pedagogy of Hope" is a relatively short Paulo Freire book that has a lot of inspirational messages, it's also better translated than "Pedagogy of the Oppressed", that can feel it a little heavy...

1:20:19.7 NC: Interesting. I have not read "Pedagogy of Hope". So that'll have to be on my to-do list.

1:20:24.4 CM: Alright, here it comes.

1:20:25.8 S?: One.

1:20:28.2 CM: Yeah.

1:20:30.4 NC: I hate it so much. Alright. So my number one is almost more personal than the other ones, in part because my journey to progressive education also coincides with my becoming a parent. My daughter was born in 2015, my son in 2018, and of course, throughout their lives and seeing the connection of schools and parenting and my own growth as both a parent and an educator, when I picked up this book, it was almost a difficult read because in a lot of ways, I see my own son as being one of the children who could perhaps be in this. I've talked to Chris about him a lot. But my son is four and he is a different kind of kid, [chuckle] you could say, he's neurodivergent in a lot of different ways. He's formally diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, he had developed in the last year, so pretty striking hearing loss that we were able to take care of, with surgery at the beginning of this summer. And throughout the course of all of that, there were just behavioral things that were in congruence with his ability to attend daycare with other kids because of the other issues that, the way that he brings in and processes information, his emotions, the physical world around him, were all barriers to what the normal kids were doing.

1:21:57.8 NC: So through a lot of work and physical therapy, again, surgeries, meeting with consultants on that, I foresee his progression through formal schooling as one that will be difficult. And I want to make a system that will recognize him, not for his behavioral excesses and regulation issues, or how he interacts in a big crowded noisy loud environment. And so when I read Carla Shalaby's "Troublemakers", the subtitle of which is, let's see here, "Lessons in Freedom From Young Children at School", really captures the story of, I believe it's four students. And Carla frames these through the lens of them being the canaries in the coal mine, and school's the coal mine. The canary in the coal mine analogy is if these kids aren't thriving, aren't surviving and thriving, then that does not bode well for other kids as well. Other students are harmed by the ways that we treat these kids at the margins too. Now, I do wanna just read a little bit, not even from the text itself, from the foreword, which is from Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. Yeah. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot.

1:23:23.5 NC: And the very first words of this book in the forewords, when you open it up, you get in here, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot writes, "We rarely hear the words 'freedom' and 'love' in our private conversations and public discourses on schooling, in our aspirations and hopes for our children's education, in our proposals and recommendations for school reform. In fact, these concepts embedded in theoretical propositions, in moral searching, or in empirical investigations are rarely on the tongues of educational researchers who examine the dynamics of teaching, trace the trajectories of child development, and explore the layers of school culture. In this educational era resonating with the appeals for standards and standardization driven by the requirements of accountability and evaluation, the words, metaphors, and images that come to our minds and haunt our public consciousness carry just the opposite meaning. They speak of uniformity and conformity, management and control, of achievement and success as measured by narrow assessment tools and remote quantifiable metrics."

1:24:24.7 NC: And I'll fast=forward here, she goes on: "In our efforts to control and measure, in fact, we often confuse difference with deviance, illness with identity. We pathologize, exclude, and then label those children who do not fit the norm, who trouble the waters, who misbehave, and we reward the teachers who contain and squelch the troublemakers." And I read this book just in the last year, and really, that notion then of seeing the troublemakers, not as school would traditionally have them, isolated, framed, excluded, from those processes, but recognizing that building systems that support those students are gonna be systems that support all of them. And there's so much power in the stories that she tells because she... It's basically an ethnography. She sat in and observed students in these classroom environments, and did home visits with their parents to see them in these different environments, and really just saw these students for the awesome kids that they were, but also for the ways that they deviated from that. So again, it's hard not to get emotional and take that personally, 'cause my kid is gonna be on the receiving end of Shalaby's perception in that, my four-year-old could be a kid in this text. And so, really making that a personal mission for myself to want to restructure schools in ways that can support him and other kids like him who don't fit into those molds.

1:25:52.8 CM: That's a fantastic book. I'm gonna also put that at my number 11, I really like that book, there's a lot of great thought in there. It could fit into my top 10 quite easily, I just wasn't thinking about it. That's a great work. So to keep the pace going here, as we hit the hour and a half mark...

1:26:10.7 NC: Yeah, it's good content. It's good.

1:26:11.9 CM: Should've done a top five. You can probably guess my number one book, because I talk about this book, pretty much every time that we're in a meeting, I quote and/or reference something from this book, because it's impacted me more than anything else I've ever read, let alone an education book. It is the book that made me wanna be a teacher, or at least solidified it, and it's the book that...

1:26:36.5 NC: Is the cover yellow?

1:26:38.6 CM: The cover is... It's yellow or green, I think, depending on the edition, I can't remember which one's which. The cover is yellow, at least, on my version.

1:26:43.5 NC: Okay. Okay. Alright, just curious.

1:26:46.9 CM: So that book is "Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom" by bell hooks. To me, the best book ever written on progressive education, that not only dives into the nature about what progressive education is, but is a modern interpretation of Paulo Freire, because bell hooks also was friends with Paulo Freire and did a lot of stuff based off of his work. It incorporates her experience of growing up in segregated classrooms, and on anti-racist education, and it dives into the modern difficulties of integrating progressive education in spaces that are inherently neoliberal and capitalist, and very much against a lot of the things that would be best for kids. I went ahead and pulled up... 'Cause you read a quote, I figured I'd pull up one of my quotes from this book.

1:27:47.8 CM: hooks writes, "When education is the practice of freedom, students are not the only ones who are asked to share or to confess. Engaged pedagogy does not seek simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow and empowered by the process. That empowerment cannot happen if we refuse to be vulnerable while encouraging students to take risks. Professors who expect students to share confessional narratives but who are themselves unwilling to share are exercising power in a manner that could be coercive. When professors bring narratives all of their experiences into classroom discussions, it eliminates the possibility that we can function as all-knowing, silent interrogators." And Hooks brings in so many ideas about not being neutral, about recognizing the myth of objectivity, about diving into why it's important that we think about our race and class, gender identity, disability, in all of the work that we do. I think a very valid criticism of a lot of books that are popular on progressive education, so not like your Giroux's and stuff, I'm thinking Kohn's work.

1:29:00.7 CM: Even a little more mainstream, like Dintersmith or Wagner, is that they don't talk a lot about anti-racist education, about gender and gender identity, about disability. They don't bring up a lot about identity politics, which is a necessary thing to investigate in a public school system where all of the things that we're talking about, but especially like hooks, and Giroux and Darder, are recognizing the fact that, again, the schools that are incorporating all these ideas are inherently those that have political power, those for rich White kids that are capable of having the cool progressive schools. One of the things that bothers me a lot about doing the work that we do at HRP is that, the schools that are easy for us to get into, for the most part, to do professional development that are recognizing this cool stuff, are schools that cost $30,000 a year to go to. It's not the schools that are struggling to have budgets or that struggle with all of the different government regulations that have been placed on them for "failing" their school report card, they're not gonna bring in folks like us to do cool work because they're worried about keeping up.

1:30:14.7 CM: So, to me, "Teaching to Transgress", it's a book about hope, it's a book about understanding how to teach. And to me it's the validity factor. When I read that book, I think that what I'm doing is right and I'm not a crazy person, 'cause there were many times in my teaching career where I would walk in everyday and I'd be like, "Am I just doing this all wrong? 'Cause it doesn't feel right, it feels like I'm messing up," or, "This is too chaotic, it's too weird, I'm being too open." And that book really, really nailed it for me. "Teaching Community", "Teaching for a Community", I think is just as good. I think that "Teaching to Transgress" was just slightly more applicable for day-to-day practice, but they're both great books. And same with all bell hooks' feminist work, I think was very powerful for me understanding and dissecting what that means. Yeah, I can't recommend... bell hooks is my favorite author, so I can't recommend it enough. Yeah, that's my top 10. We're gonna do...

1:31:13.1 NC: We did it.

1:31:13.2 CM: Very quickly honorable mentions, with rapid fire.

1:31:16.2 NC: We could do honorable mentions. We've made a full feature length film out of this episode. One of my honorable mentions is gonna be Cornelius Minor's "We Got This".

1:31:27.9 CM: That's also one of mine. That was on my list, for honorable mentions.

1:31:29.7 NC: Okay. 'Cause he wraps up all of... It's like everything that we've talked about, all of these other books, but presented aesthetically, it is so cool and so useful, really just fits with his understanding and his experiences of the world in that comic book format. And you can...You can see just how many of these little tabs I have.

1:31:51.5 CM: Yeah. He's sneaking in Freire and hooks into that book.

1:31:55.7 NC: Yeah, it's exactly it. But the tabs are, because he has so much useful stuff, it's just like these really useful diagrams that you could make photo copies of, these organizers and protocols, it's just such a useful operational book to implement these practices. It's culturally responsive teaching. It's like all of those theoretic academic concepts, where just like, "Hey, here's how you actually do that in your classrooms with kids." So that's a great book.

1:32:27.5 CM: My next one would be... I'm sorry, I'm flying through. I didn't mean to cut you off. My next one would be "Excellent Sheep" by William Deresiewicz. It was the book I always handed the kids.

1:32:35.3 NC: Oh, that's a good one.

1:32:38.9 CM: That's the book that tells... He's a Yale professor, that talks about why we shouldn't be on the, I think it calls it zombification process, where you just go next step education, you go through middle school and high school, and you go to college, and then you do this and then you do this, and then you hope that you get a good job, and then along the way, all of that purpose finding is lost, which I'm just gonna toss it in here right now. My next book on the list was "The Path to Purpose" by William Damon, that outlines all of that purpose finding research. To me, those two books go hand-in hand. One more, that's also in those list of three books, is Frank Bruni's "Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be", which is talking about...

1:33:12.6 NC: Oh, okay. Never read that.

1:33:15.2 CM: That's a book about all of the people that have gone to state schools or community colleges, wherever that might be, and have been just as successful as the people that get in to elite colleges. To me, I used to teach... When I taught students in history, we used to have an education-type unit whenever kids wanted to do it, and I would pull excerpts from Deresiewicz, Bruni, and the other one I was just talking about that I'm blanking on right now. I pull all three of those together and talk about, what does it mean to go to college? And it doesn't matter where you get into. And the thesis behind all of that is it doesn't, it doesn't matter where you go, because it's all about connections anyway. If you're rich and you can afford to get into Yale, the reason why you tend to be more successful is that you already have connections 'cause you were at Yale, not because you necessarily have that better of an education.

1:34:06.1 NC: Okay. Can I have two more honorable mentions?

1:34:11.2 NC: I wasn't sure where to include this, but it was just so formative, again, in my early college experience in the... I associate this book, I probably talked about this before, but with the professor that I had who taught this class, it was for an African-American history class, taught by the late Professor Baskerville, who, his and I relationship was really great being between undergrad and a college professor, but he was really encouraging, developing my thinking and pushing my thinking on these topics too. But I remember reading James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time", and it's a book that I probably read three or four...

1:34:50.2 CM: That was my upcoming...

1:34:50.7 NC: Is it? Okay. And it's not an education book, but it's not a book about... It's not about pedagogy, it's not about this, but it's about his educational experiences, and his experiences just growing up as a Black gay man in the United States, and it's so informative and so powerful in such a small... You could sit down and read it in one sitting before bed, which I think is what I did the first time I went through it. But yeah, just... There's not anybody I think who can touch the prose of Baldwin and the impact that his words have. So it's like there's always a bit of my thinking that has Baldwin's experiences via this text in here too. And one more, that would be John Dewey's "Democracy and Education". Probably the founding text of progressive education would be Dewey's work, and it's dense. I have not read this whole book, I've read parts of all of the pieces of it to synthesize it. Hut he was who really was doing... Laying that foundation for thinking of exactly that, "What is the purpose of education? What's the purpose of education to create citizens? What is the role of education in a democratic society, democratic system?" in a time where it was anything but. But, yeah, just informing there's still lessons that you can learn, going back to his own words, but obviously his impact and his legacy can't be... Isn't matched by probably anybody, other than the Freire's and the hooks's of the critical pedagogy world. What else you got? I'm done.

1:36:24.8 CM: Yeah. I got three more quick ones, two of them were in that same, like "The Fire Next Time" type vibe, getting into carceral pedagogy. One would be the recently released "We Do This 'Til They Free Us" by Kaba.

1:36:39.7 NC: Oh yes. Yeah.

1:36:41.1 CM: Which isn't necessarily an education book, but certainly the carceral stuff goes into the education world, and being aware of that helps you combat that in your classroom. It's a very well-written book. The other one, which is an education book, is "We Want to Do More Than Survive" by Bettina Love, which is the educational version of that same thing. I love that book as well, I considered putting it in the top 10, I just wasn't really sure where to put it, and I want to throw in my weird picks of the beginning. It would probably be up in the top 10 if I didn't put those in there. The only other book, which is in relation to the Carla Shalaby book where it's one of those things where, I don't have kids, but if I did, I would hope that educators read this book because it reflects my experience in school, which is "Quiet" by Susan Cain.

1:37:31.5 CM: I know that's a pop-psy book that used to be really popular, five or 10 years ago, everyone was reading that in regards to, it's not an education book, but it's also just more a fun read, but it talks about why the world is very much built for extroverted thinking, and it dives a lot in the classrooms and teaching, where it seems like the more elite of the school you go to, the more they focus on public speaking and group work, and really intensive extroverted conversations. And I find a lot of connections there to, one, to myself, 'cause I was always a very quiet person, I still am, I am not the kind of person that likes to do small talk and just constantly present it, just not my thing despite doing an hour and 40-minute long podcast. But...

1:38:18.7 NC: I don't like talking. Yeah. Right. [chuckle]

1:38:20.8 CM: Yeah. But also, I think that there's a lot to be learned, and even though I don't remember, and I could be wrong, but I don't remember Susan Cain diving much into this, but I see a lot of connections to neurodivergence and how we design classes for different methods of speaking. And some of the most intelligent, the best perspective on education have been from people who don't communicate through word. Well, they don't communicate by speaking, they write everything out or they present things in different ways. And again, if we're gonna build a culture where it's a better future as opposed to the world that we're building right now, we should allow people to present things in different ways that they can build those structures down the road that are there. It doesn't mean that we can't acknowledge the existing issues and prepare people for those problems. It doesn't mean we need to throw the baby out with the bath water, but we can do two things at once, we can juggle those concepts. So yeah, that's my list...

1:39:16.8 NC: And I think too, there's just... There's so much connection to the work that we've done with HRP and then try to export, and tried in our classrooms as well, like the digital pedagogy, hosting an online conference on Discord for exactly those reasons as well, 'cause good digital pedagogy is accessible to everyone. You can communicate on voice and through video, you can communicate via text, and some people only communicate in one form or the other, are push now for multimodal literacy and trying to reach people in different spaces that aren't just text-based or through academic articles. I think maybe that is a little bit ahead of its time and thinking of, Okay, if we know better, how do we do better on actually making learning spaces for kids and adults more accessible and increase participation for people from a variety of modalities?" That's a no-brainer.

1:40:13.5 CM: That's an irony behind doing a top 10 list for books, because I completely recognize that a lot of folks that are educators don't like reading books like this. I think...

1:40:22.9 NC: Yeah. You can listen to them, you can find... Yeah.

1:40:24.8 CM: Yeah. You can listen to them. You can watch YouTubers cover them, I'm sure there's a lot of them in this video. You can listen to our podcast where we bring up a lot of these themes. But I think the final thing I would say, final closing thought, would be that the purpose of list like this, and I think this is something that a lot of folks in this sphere get caught up in and it's a trap and it's true of every niche, it's not even niche, but something that's a little more specialized is gatekeeping information or believing that you should gatekeep progressive and like, "Oh, if you haven't read Bell Hooks, then you can't call yourself a progressive educator." 'Cause there are so many different times where, we'll be talking to folks and I'll be like, "You won't believe it. We got Henry Giroux to present at our conferences." And they're like, "Who's Henry Giroux?"

1:41:05.7 CM: And I'm sitting there like, "The dude's written like 70 books on progressive education. How do you not know who he is?" There's a lot of people that don't know this kind of stuff. I've only read, like you, I think I've only read like 20 pages of Dewey because I can't stand it, it's so boring. But I understand the impact of his work. And I'm probably missing things out there. I didn't read Maria Montessori until a few years ago, and I know how much of an impact she had on education. I think it's important to recognize that there's a lot of information out there that folks aren't exposed to or don't want to be exposed to yet. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're not a real progressive educator, whatever that means.

1:41:44.8 NC: Yeah. Maybe that was a little bit of my rationale behind presenting that journey too. It's not like we all go through the same education program and come out having read all of those same texts, particularly if they're aligned with the values of progressive education. We're all finding our own turning points and our own text that resonate with us in our practice and building that plane as it's flying. Yeah, we're all on our own journey, and I would love to see people share their own top five or top 10 lists with us in comments or on social media and stuff, just to see what blind spots do we have? What did we miss out on? What should we be reading too, because obviously, there's only so much time for us to have read up to this point, so we couldn't have gotten to everything yet. Give us some new recommendations, give us some things that we can read and review and cover in the future, but obviously, if you've listened this far, you're a super fan anyway, so thanks for sticking around.

1:42:48.2 CM: Awesome. Well, thanks for listening, everybody. We'll do another one again soon, maybe we'll do top 10 educational games. I don't know. We'll find out. Okay. Bye-bye.

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Nick Covington
Nick taught social studies for 10 years in Iowa and has worked as a labor organizer. He is currently the Creative Director at the Human Restoration Project.
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Chris McNutt
Chris McNutt is the co-founder and executive director of Human Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization focused on student engagement, well-being, and motivation. His work centers on realizing systems-based change, examining how progressive pedagogical shifts (e.g. PBL, ungrading) reimagine school to best suit the needs of students and teachers alike. He was a public high school digital media & design educator who focused on experiential learning, portfolio-driven assessment, and community involvement.
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