7 Books About Education Policy

Carolina Jacobs

Dec 3, 2021

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If education is key to building human capital, the world is facing a learning crisis. Fifty-six percent of children born today will lose more than half of their potential lifetime earnings because governments fail to make effective investments in health and education, according to a Human Capital Index. Meanwhile, systematic racism, economic disparity and a lack of competent teachers continue to destroy the American education system. 

Regardless of your personal views on school politics, you probably agree that some change is in order. Add the following books about education policy to your list of must-reads to learn more about current policies and what you can do to improve systems within your classroom. 

1. “Waiting for ‘Superman’: How We Can Save America’s Failing Public Schools” — Karl Weber

Just over a decade ago, Karl Weber published “Waiting for Superman,” a book that foretold the current shortage of teachers in the education system. This nationwide crisis has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Yet, there there’s still hope for today’s public schools because educators, parents, political leaders and concerned citizens are dedicated to saving them. Consider this must-read an inspiring call for reform and take action with the hands-on suggestions, ideas and resources provided within its pages. 

2. “Disrupting Class” — Clayton Christensen, Curtis Johnson, Michael Horn

Standardization is a touchy subject for parents, teachers and students alike. However, those who criticize it rarely provide an alternative. However, there are better solutions and this book presents them in the most digestible way possible. The authors propose dismantling the current education systems and reconstructing them to support creativity and thought. While promising, these strategies could take years to implement due to the required time, money and resources. 

3. “Savage Inequalities” — Jonathan Kozol

Take a deep dive into the education gap with “Savage Inequalities.” This book addresses egregious funding disparities between schools in wealthy areas and those in poor ones. Does the education system really provide equal opportunities to every child? The author spent two years traveling the country in a quest to find out. His interviews with teachers, principals, superintendents and students reveal the heartbreaking truth. 

4. “Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom” — Lisa Delpit

You’re stuck with other people’s children all day. How does your position of authority affect them? Rethink the power dynamics in your classroom with this insightful must-read from author Lisa Delpit. The book deals with the disparity between the number of black students and the number of black teachers who instruct them. More importantly, it addresses the teacher’s role as a cultural transmitter and explores ways you might become a better one in your own classroom. 

5. “Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope” — Bell Hooks

Author Bell Hooks believes that teaching can happen anywhere, any time. In fact, discussing race, gender, class and nationality beyond the classroom is key to fighting racism and supremacy — both within and without the education system. “Teaching Community” is a book to help you do just that. Theorizing from the positive, this powerful work shows you what the world might look like when teachers teach with love, commitment, respect and trust. 

6. “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way” — Amanda Ripley 

Reading books about education policy can help you understand how the rest of the world approaches it. “The Smartest Kids in the World” suggests that most other developed countries have created much more effective systems for teaching and learning. This book follows three Americans who study abroad in three “smart” countries, so it’s a nice point for comparison. What do these colleges do differently and why are their students seemingly “smarter?” Pick up a copy and discover how much room for improvement the U.S. really has. 

7. “The Politics of American Education” — Joel Spring

This volume is a bit lengthy but, if you want a rich, thought-provoking read, “The Politics of American Education” is it. Turning his analytical lens on educational politics, author Joel Spring takes a closer look at contemporary education policy issues. His talent for explaining both the big picture and micro-level intricacies will help you better understand the multiple forces controlling public schools. Coverage includes the influence of global and federal organizations on education policies and the impact of open source on today’s students. 

Change Begins With You

A growing body of evidence suggests that the learning crisis is, essentially, a teaching crisis. Students need good teachers to learn equally and effectively. Thus, adopting a growth mindset, banishing personal biases and expanding your knowledge is key to providing an equitable learning environment. Change begins with you, so pick up some books about education policy and start reading.

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