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Rick Hess: What I'm Reading This Summer

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rick hess thumbnail image.pngOpinion blogger Rick Hess is a well-known firebrand and author of the www.edweek.org-hosted Rick Hess Straight Up. He is also a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute think tank. Here, he shares with BookMarks the four books that top his summer reading list:

Well, this is always a weird assignment. Truth is that I got into teaching and then academe because I always loved to read. Of course, one of the not-so-lovely ironies of academe is that once you're actually in it, you spend an enormous amount of time skimming and perusing books that aren't always all that interesting or fun. But, in the words of a writer that I'm always happy to read and read again, "So it goes."

Speaking of which, I always try to spend a decent chunk of any summer re-reading favorites by folks like Vonnegut, Tom Perrotta, Dan Jenkins, Richard Russo, and Chris Buckley. But that's neither here nor there with regards to folks who might be turning to an EdWeek blog for possible ideas. So, let's skip those folks and other stuff from outside the edu-bubble, to touch on three edu-books I plan to peruse.

One work I've been curious to check out is Maia Bloomfield Cucchiara's Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities (University of Chicago, 2013). This book doesn't look to be an especially easy read, but I'm curious to see Cucchiara's take on what it means that schools today can be as much an urban amenity as a place of learning. Cucchiara notes that city planners use schools to attract affluent families, and looks to make the case that this is problematic on various counts.

A book I've only had a chance to glance at but am looking forward to reading more fully is Mark Edwards' Every Child, Every Day. Edwards is the acclaimed superintendent of the modestly sized, poorly resourced, and remarkably successful school district of Mooresville, North Carolina. In this volume, he sketches his advice on how districts can leverage digital tools to drive student learning.

A third volume of interest is Danielle Allen and Rob Reich's edited volume Education, Justice & Democracy (University of Chicago, 2013). It's another book that doesn't look to be a lot of fun, but which offers a smart mix of contributors—a number of whom I don't know—weighing in on big questions related to equity and democracy. Per usual, I'm not sure how much of the book I'll agree with, but it was put together by two smart folks and I'm curious to see what the contributors have to say.

Oh, what the heck. One other book I've been meaning to read for several years now, and am finally picking up, is Roll the Bones (Gotham, 2006) by David Schwartz. Admittedly, it's kind of off the edu-path. But the thing is billed as "the history of gambling," and it looks to be one of those works of social history that might stretch my understanding of why the world looks the way it does. I find that kind of stuff can be enormously useful in pushing myself out of comfortable assumptions and expectations.

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