* Teaching with “Voices of a People’s History of the United States”
By Gayle Olson-Raymer
(Seven Stories Press, 2005)
295 pp. $10 (downloadable for free at www.sevenstories.com/textbook).
This volume can be used with Howard Zinn’s classic text, A People’s History of the United States, as well as with Zinn’s collaboration with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People’s History of the United States, a collection of readings and documents that flesh out Zinn’s original narrative. Olson-Raymer suggests discussion questions, essay topics, and other activities to help students engage with key themes in both books. Many of these can be used as-is with students, but they can also help teachers frame their U.S. history curriculum more intelligently.
The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq
By Christian Parenti
(The New Press, 2004)
211 pp. $21.95.
The title of this book is drawn from Parenti’s translator in Iraq: “Ah, the freedom. Look, we have the gas-line freedom, the looting freedom, the killing freedom, the rape freedom, the hash-smoking freedom. I don’t know what to do with all this freedom.” Although this is not likely a book that could be used in full with students, there are sections that could be used in high school classes. For example, Chapter 8, on Abu Ghraib prison, is one of these sections, or parts of Chapter 5, “Meeting the Resistance.” Definitely not G-rated fare, this is a book that can be excerpted to give students an alternative to the mostly uncritical with-our-troops reporting found in daily papers.
The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: The Traditions in English
By Jack Zipes, et al.
(Norton, 2005) 2470 pp. $67.50.
A comprehensive collection of work of 170 writers and illustrators, tracing the historical development of genres and traditions over 350 years of children’s literature in English. A valuable resource for teachers, librarians, and teacher educators who want to understand the social and cultural context of children’s literature and have at their fingertips an amazing compilation of literature.
Poor Workers’ Unions: Rebuilding Labor from Below
By Vanessa Tait
(South End Press, 2005) 258 pp. $20.
This book provides a well-documented history of major movements for economic justice. Tait includes labor organizing efforts that grew out of the civil rights, women’s, and new left movements; community-based labor organizing; worker centers; the organizing of workfare workers; and organizing within the AFL-CIO. This book should be of interest to social studies teachers interested in teaching working-class history and to teacher union activists who want a deeper understanding of organizing strategy, tactics, and history.
America’s “Failing” Schools:
How Parents and Teachers Can Cope with No Child Left Behind
By W. James Popham
(RoutledgeFalmer, 2004)156 pp.
A nationally recognized expert on testing takes the NCLB law to task and encourages parents and teachers to take action. No book on this subject can stay current with the ongoing battles, but America’s “Failing” Schools offers some solid arguments around issues of accountability and testing.
The Charter School Dust-Up:
Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement
By Martin Carnoy, Rebecca Jacobsen, Lawrence Mishel, and Richard Rothstein
(Economic Policy Institute and Teachers College Press, 2005)
295 pp. $19.95.
The right wing continues to push (and finance) biased studies to “prove” that charter schools outperform regular public schools. This book provides a much-needed antidote, examining in detail the racial and class composition of charter schools throughout the country and the performance of those schools compared to public schools using various measures. It concludes that typical charter school students are not more disadvantaged, yet their average achievement is not higher.
* ” . . . and nobody said anything”:
Uncomfortable Conversations About Diversity
Produced by Mara Sapon-Shevin and Richard Breyer
2004. 10 min. DVD. $25.
This DVD, intended for professional development, grew out of an incident shortly after September 11, when a Jordanian-American university student listened in shock as a friend in class said that all Palestinian children should be killed—and no one, including the professor, raised an objection. The DVD presents five vignettes designed to provoke discussion about important issues. A short accompanying teaching guide offers suggestions for how these vignettes can help spark discussions about social justice teaching.
Directed by Carmela Baranowska
2004. 45 min. DVD $45.
In part one of Taliban Country , director Carmela Baranowska is embedded with the U.S. Marines in a remote and poverty-stricken region of Afghanistan. The Marines team up with a local Afghan warlord and his militia in operations to hunt for Taliban and al Qaida. Then in part two, Baranowska returns to the same region without her Marine escort to hear directly from the villagers about how they experience the U.S. and militia presence. Taliban Country does not provide much context for these operations, but the film is a rare and engrossing inside look at one corner of the U.S. occupation. Note: harsh language.
Testing Mrs. Grube and A Different Standard
Directed by Ondine Rarey
2005. 60 min. DVD $89 for libraries and K-12 schools;
non-institutional orders contact
www.ondinerareyproductions. comThese two films depict two fifth-grade classrooms, but offer important lessons for all educators. In one classroom, the teacher and school struggle to deal with low test scores and the intense pressure by district administration to focus almost exclusively on test preparation. In the other classroom, an alternative school teacher shows an engaging and rigorous school program that is also being criticized by district administrators for refusing to succumb to the testing regime. Together, both movies show how the nation’s testing craze is wreaking havoc on excellent teachers and schools. They also demonstrate that despite such pressure, teachers find ways to resist and teach.
* So They May Speak
2003. 30 min. VHS. $50 (with booklet). Note: The $50 price is only for K-12 schools and teachers, through www.teachingforchange.org. All others should order directly from www. californiatomorrow.org.
From the bayous of Louisiana to the Central Valley of California to a border town in Texas, this video focuses on three exceptional educational programs striving to produce bi-literacy and reclaim and sustain cultures and heritage languages for the children of their communities. So They May Speak features the statewide French immersion program in Louisiana; the districtwide Spanish dual-immersion program in Ysleta, Texas; and a community-based Cambodian after-school program in Fresno, California. This video could be used in teacher education and inservice programs, but also in history classes looking at linguistic issues, or language classes looking at historical issues. The video illustrates different models of how a community can educate their immigrant, language- and cultural-minority youth.
* The Corporation
By Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan
Zeitgeist Films, 2005.145 min. DVD, $30. Note: The $30 price is only for K-12 schools and teachers, through www.teachingforchange.org. All others should order directly from www.zeitgeistfilms.com.
This film is a virtual encyclopedia of the social and ecological consequences of corporate power. Although it would be tough for high school students to watch this long film straight through, The Corporation is astute and clever, and could easily be excerpted for classroom use. It’s now widely available in video stores. The film traces the history of corporate personhood, and then plays on the conceit that corporations are legally people. If they are indeed people, then they are psychopaths, the film proposes. A running psychological profile throughout the film finds that the modern corporation demonstrates an incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, a reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness, an inability to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors. This is a rich and entertaining film with something here for high school classes ranging from U.S. history to economics, and from government to chemistry. Interviews with Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, and Naomi Klein, with extended interviews on a companion DVD.
By Dan Gonzalez
www.columbusdaygifts.org“Columbus Day” is singer/songwriter Dan Gonzalez’s lovely but biting song that commemorates 500 plus years of Western imperialism. “Columbus Day marks the feat of an age. It’s a holiday that celebrates the taking,” he laments in the song. He asks, “When will we start giving gifts on Columbus Day?” Add it to your “songs for social justice” playlist. Full disclosure: Gonzalez is donating all proceeds of the song to Rethinking Schools.
* Available from www.teachingforchange.org.