*A People’s History of American Empire:
A Graphic Adaptation
By Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle
(Metropolitan Books, 2008)
273 pp. $17
With help from illustrator Mike Konopacki and historian Paul Buhle, Howard Zinn’s critical scholarship on the roots and consequences of U.S. empire has been made even more accessible. A People’s History of American Empire is told through cartoons and photos with autobiographical stories and historical vignettes (see page 33). This is a wonderful introduction to U.S. history for middle and high school students-but also for teachers at all grade levels. The book begins with the “internal empire” of the final wars of displacement against Indian people, culminating with the Wounded Knee massacre-“the climax to 400 years of violence that began with Christopher Columbus.” The book continues through the Spanish-American War, World War I, Vietnam, and the “resurgence of empire” in the U.S.-sponsored wars in Central America. But it concludes, as all of Howard Zinn’s work does, with a discussion of the possibility and necessity of hope. And for more Zinn resources and teaching materials, see www.zinnedproject.org, home of the Zinn Education Project, a collaboration between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change.
*Crash Course: Reflections on the Film Crash for Critical Dialogues About Race, Power
Edited by Michael Benitez Jr. and Felicia Gustin
(The Institute for Democratic Education and Culture-Speak Out, 2007)
83 pp. $12
Because the film Crash is being used in high school and college courses, the organization Speak Out, led a panel discussion at the 2006 National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education to address whether Crash is a realistic assessment of race in America or reflects Hollywood stereotypes, and whether the film can be used in the classroom to deepen students’ understanding of race and racism. That panel launched this volume of 11 provocative essays that will help teachers sort out whether and how to use Crash with high school or college students.
It’s My Life! A Guide to Alternatives After High School
Edited by Janine Schwab
(American Friends Service Committee, 2008)
89 pp. $9.95
Not all students want to or are able to go to college after high school. For these young people, recruiters are eager to lure them into the military, where, because of current stop-loss policies, they will remain until the government feels like letting them out. This guide provides valuable advice on where young people can find training opportunities, internships, and apprenticeships-including, but not limited to, peace and social justice jobs. It’s reader-friendly, practical, and hopeful. An indispensable resource for counselors, school-to-work programs, and any teacher working with high school seniors.
*SAT Bronx: Do You Know What Bronx Kids Know?
By Shannon O’Grady, Kristin Ferrales, and Students from Bronx Leadership Academy, (Next Generation Press, 2008)
76 pp. $9.95
This little booklet full of tests developed by a group of high school students requires a No. 2 pencil and a sense of humor. Presented in standardized test multiple-choice format, the test questions are based on the issues and challenges the students face in their lives, such as Who’s American?, Why Do We Fight?, The Recruitment Decision, What to Take to College, and more. Students will enjoy reading and taking a test that “makes it real” while adult readers will likely need to ask a teenager for help figuring out the answers. The book can be used to introduce the skills of test taking with familiar content. It can also inspire students to develop their own tests based on what teachers and parents should know about their own lives and community. Hopefully it will also lead students to critically examine the capacity of a one-shot, multiple-choice test to capture and measure all that we know.
*City Kids, City Schools: More Reports from the Front Row
Edited by William Ayers, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Gregory Michie, and Pedro Noguera
(The New Press, 2008)
346 pp. $24.95
In this issue of Rethinking Schools, we feature two selections from the extraordinary new collection, City Kids, City Schools: Gregory Michie’s “City Teaching: Not All Toil and Struggle,” and Lisa Espinosa’s “Everything Flowers.” The book includes essays from students, teachers, teacher educators, and activists-as well as contributions from Rethinking Schools editors Wayne Au, Linda Christensen, and Stan Karp. Critical, hopeful, eloquent: this is an utterly authentic look at schools as they are, but also as they could be.
Taking Back Childhood:
Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World
By Nancy Carlsson-Paige
(Hudson Street Press, 2008)
288 pp. $23.95
Carlsson-Paige shows how parents can nurture their children’s basic needs for creative play, security, and positive relationships. The book includes conversations with dozens of parents the author interviewed. The frustrations and joys of parenting they share will not only ring true for readers, but also offer concrete suggestions for how to parent in a way that truly connects with children and minimizes the effects of screen time, media violence, and advertising.
The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and their Unions:
Stories of Resistance
Edited by Mary Compton and Lois Weiner
(Palgrave MacMillan, 2008)
281 pp. $27.95
This comprehensive collection of essays analyzes the attacks on teaching and public education in the world. Drawing on diverse experiences of teacher unions from over a dozen countries, teacher union leaders and scholars explain the impact of new global policies that promote privatization, probe the forces behind such policies, and describe different strategies of resistance that teachers are using to fight back.
By W. James Popham
150 pp. $22.95
Popham, one of the leading U.S. experts on assessment and evaluation, describes the power of formative assessments in this short and accessible volume. He carefully defines formative assessment as a “planned process in which teachers or students use assessment-based evidence to adjust what they’re currently doing.” He argues that such clarity is important “so that [educators] will be forearmed against commercial test-development companies that are eager to hitch a profit-making ride on the enthusiasm for formative assessment, and thus, will label as ‘formative assessment’ practices that are not actually consonant with the body of research that validates formative assessment.” He argues that, “describing interim or benchmark tests as ‘formative’ in the sense that they are in accord with research evidence. is a fundamental misrepresentation.” Most of the book details how to shift away from ineffective state-, district-, and classroom-developed tests to a formative process that will significantly improve teaching and learning. A useful handbook for educators who want to simultaneously fight top-down testing and improve genuine assessment practices.
*The Story of Stuff
By Annie Leonard
(Free Range Studios, 2008)
20 min. $10 or free download at www.thestoryofstuff.com
The Story of Stuff is a funny and profound critique of global cycles of commodity production and disposal. The format is simply a mile-a-minute talk by environmentalist Annie Leonard, illustrated by cartoons that bring to life Leonard’s critique. Leonard opens with a confession that, “I got a little obsessed with all my stuff.” With biting wit, she proceeds to demolish the traditional textbook account that “our stuff simply moves along these stages: extraction to production to distribution to consumption to disposal.” It’s a must-watch film for global studies, economics, government, physical science, ecology, or any course dealing with the environmental crisis. There are lots of extras at the website, including an annotated script of The Story of Stuff and ideas on what we can do to address the problems that Leonard lays out.