Summer reading 2012

After graduating this spring and spending my life savings on a trip to Italy, my goal this summer was to create a  list of education books to read and review for this blog. I’ve read through them, but now comes the elusive writing bit. Here is a sample:

Ken OsborneEducation: A Guide to the Canadian School Debate – or, Who Wants What and Why?

A very concise summary of views, with a liberal arts/civics slant. It helps to know some of the past education debates, and to consolidate some B.Ed. material. Ken has some shrewd observations along with a healthy dislike of “edubabble,” thanks to a sensibility for the history of educational ideas and its fads. I met Ken at last year’s SAGE where he did a workshop on teaching history through dilemmas. Ken’s an affable and Oxford trained Englishman who specializes in the history of history education in Canada. He retired from the University of Manitoba in 1997.

Northrop Frye – On Education

Frye is Canada’s greatest literary critic (UofT), and I should say quite a liberal arts traditionalist. I first read  An Educated Imagination while working as an editor and it helped assuage the guilt associated with buying too many second hand books.  This is a compilation of essays written from 1950s to the 1980s, some of them speeches to Ontario Council of Teachers of English. As a university professor, Frye was interested in the relation between the academy and the teacher colleges, and many of the issues he talks about in 1960s and 80s are still the same today.  His main thesis –  a truly basic education teaches that language is a way of thinking. Many quotable quotes in this book.

Nicholas Carr-  The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Your Brain

Carr’s book was a finalist for the Pulitzer prize and is a must read for anyone trying to make sense of the impact of technology on education. This one I’ve read twice now, mostly because he picks up on so many neuro-science studies which are hard to remember. His argument is that the internet is changing how we think, that the switch from books to the the Net means we’ll loose our one of the greatest catalysts of civilization and progress – the capacity for uninterrupted, sustained concentration (what postmoderns have demonized as “linear thought”). The Church of Google is perhaps his most telling chapter, where he sheds light on the reductionistic account of human nature brought to us by the priests of post-industrial capitalism – Google executives view the human brain as a machine and the greatest value is speed and efficiency. Especially when you make money off of how distracted you can make people.  Basically, Marshall McLuhan was right: a new medium changes how we think, not just what we think. Carr is a level-headed observer who is just reminding us of what we’re leaving behind in all our utopic progressivism.

Also to come are reviews of:
 
Yatta Kanu – Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives Into the Curriculum (2011)
 
The History Boys – a film version of Allan Bennett’s play.
 
George Steiner – Lessons of the Masters
 
Paolo Freire – Pedagogy of the Oppressed
 
Neil Postman – Building a Bridge to the 18th Century
 
John T. Gatto Weapons of Mass Instruction
 
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