That Used to Be Us–looking outward and forward II: books

That Used to Be Us—Links on looking to the future

Last thoughts on how the book connects to educators

Places to find more information

I want to create three posts on where to look while we think about how we are changing—guideposts and cool stuff to use along the way. My goal is to have the positive, the negative, and the truth that lies between them. The first of the three posts was about online resources. This, the second, is on books. The third will be a counterpoint to the idea (expressed in That Used to Be Us) that poverty has no effect on educational success.

Some Books

One of the main points of these bestselling books on the current state of life is that the IT revolution has changed the way we do business, the way we educate our kids and the way we communicate and connect with each other. The list is for anyone interested in who we are and where we’re going—these run the political/social gambit. Some of these are the publisher’s summary. If it’s hyperlinked, I reviewed it and you can click for a longer look at the book.

Millennials and K-12 Schools

Millennials includes a discussion of Baby Boomers and of Generation Xers as they were when they were students and as they are now as teachers and school administrators. Millennials—the students who are now in our high schools and are just becoming old enough to be teachers themselves—are contrasted against these earlier generations. As their lives and attitudes are different from previous generations, schools that hope to give them the best education need to take into account just how they differ. Millennials also discusses how to cope with their parents.

Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It

In his introduction, Gallagher, an English teacher, introduces the term ‘readicide’ “because it cuts to the central ironic thesis of this book: rather than helping students, many of the reading practices found in today’s classrooms are actually contributing to the death of reading.” Gallagher discuss how we can turn the trend around. He uses data to show that schools are more interested in nurturing test-taking skills than in nurturing a love of reading. We limit positive reading experiences; we overteach pleasure reading books (which should just be read, not studied!); we underteach classic books (so that they are too confusing–and students hate them and give up).

A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting

Hara Marano, editor-at-large and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, has been watching a disturbing trend: kids are growing up to be wimps. They can’t make their own decisions, cope with anxiety, or handle difficult emotions without going off the deep end. Teens lack leadership skills. College students engage in deadly binge drinking. Graduates can’t even negotiate their own salaries without bringing mom or dad in for a consult. Why? Because hothouse parents raise teacup children–brittle and breakable, instead of strong and resilient. This crisis threatens to destroy the fabric of our society, to undermine both our democracy and economy.

The Post-American World

Zakaria (Time magazine editor-at-large and host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS”) updates his discussion of the relative decline of American global power in order to take into account the impact of the economic crisis of the late 2000s and other recent developments, which have only accelerated the transition to the “post-American” world and the rise of new powers in Zakaria’s estimation.

Thinking Fast and Slow

Selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of 2011,  a Globe and Mail Best Books of the Year 2011,  Title One of The Economist ‘s 2011 Books of the Year,  one of The Wall Steet Journal ‘s Best Nonfiction Books of the Year 2011,  LA Times Best Books (Current Interest)

Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields–including economics, medicine, and politics–but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book. In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow , Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.

A Whole New Mind

Explores how the business world is changing in the twenty-first century, becoming more “right-brain” based and allowing people more creative and artistic than earlier generations succeed more than those with left-brain dominance.

Start Something That Matter

Love your work, work for what you love, and change the world–all at the same time.

Should you focus on earning a living, pursuing your passions, or devoting yourself to the causes that inspire you? The surprising truth is that you don’t have to choose-and that you’ll find more success if you don’t. You don’t have to be rich to give back and you don’t have to retire to spend every day doing what you love. You can find profit, passion, and meaning all at once- right now. In Start Something That Matters, Blake Mycoskie tells the story of TOMS, one of the fastest-growing shoe companies in the world, and combines it with lessons learned from such other innovative organizations as method, charity: water, FEED Projects, and TerraCycle.


Taking his title from the slang expression FUBAR, “(f…..) up beyond all recognition,” Wright (political economy, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD) presents accessible analyses of the dysfunctional state of the American economy with a bit more blame on the left than the right.

Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way:

What makes us happy? Circling the globe to study the world’s happiest populations, Buettner has spotted several common principles that can unlock the doors to true contentment with our lives. Working with leading researchers, Buettner identifies the happiest region on each of four continents. He explores why these populations say they are happier than anyone else, and what they can teach the rest of us about finding contentment. His conclusions debunk some commonly believed myths.

(Note: I didn’t get a chance to review this one, but it’s an eye-opening read in terms of education and how the U.S. is always being faulted for not doing as well on standardized tests as small northern European countries. Their systems are completely different—and as Thrive shows, they are well-oiled through a Nanny State model. I’m not arguing for or against a Nanny State, but as that is something regarded as anathema to those who criticize public education, we would do well to point out that our citizens are unwilling to pay the taxes that grease education in those countries held up as models–where up to two-thirds of  income goes to taxes. In addition, these countries scoff at our focus on standardized testing and have done very well without turning their schools into cash cows for test creators. We just have a completely different way of doing things.


About Victoria Waddle

I'm a high school librarian, formerly an English teacher. I love to read and my mission is to connect people with the right books. To that end, I read widely--from the hi-lo for reluctant high school readers to the literary adult novel for the bibliophile.
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