Launched in the fall of 2010, CityBridge Book Club convenes small groups of local business leaders and philanthropists for a series of discussions of great writing about education (and related topics). Groups are kept intentionally small to foster candid discussion and ensure a fully inclusive conversation.
Since the inception of CityBridge Book Club, our selections have included:
The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, by Dan Ariely
We all cheat. How is it, then, that most of us (honestly) consider ourselves to be true, honorable, and ethical?
According to Dan Ariely, the powerful effects of irrationality protect us from seeing discrepancies between our morals and our behavior. All of us--teachers, doctors, investors, politicians, employees, ed reformers, students--are driven by the oft-conflicting desires to view ourselves as virtuous and to reap maximum possible benefits. So we fudge just a little, unconsciously exercising the "cognitive flexibility" that justifies (such a small!) dishonest behavior and therefore preserves our sterling self-image. Unintentionally and intentionally, we fudge more than we think. How can we keep ourselves honest? Ariely examines what makes us more and less likely to cheat, including biases incentives, signed pledges, social dynamics, and other factors that impact honesty in the office, on Wall Street, in schools and everywhere in our lives.
Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential, Deborah Kenny
What does it really take to start--and then sustain--a great school? Through her personal story of founding a network of high-performing New York charter schools, Deb Kenny offers brilliant insight into public education, the hard realities of a start-up, and why culture matters more than any other single thing in establishing a strong school. Kenny's schools were founded on the principle that teacher quality is paramount, and that giving teachers freedom and accountability produces greater teaching. As she struggled to turn these ideals into a strong school culture, she grappled with tough questions that all school leaders and entrepreneurs face: What is culture? How do you establish it? Who has to own it? Kenny unpacks each of these issues, explaining how each person she met and each book she read gave her a part of the idea that evolved into Harlem Village Academies.
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough
Author and New York Times journalist Paul Tough’s work is the stuff of Ed Reform 2.0 and his newest book may provide the breakthrough intellectual frame the field has needed—a construct that moves us all one step beyond the ‘Is it Poverty? Or is it the Teachers?’ debate. Exploring education and poverty and science, Tough concludes that it is both possible and necessary for the education reform movement to espouse two oft-competing ideas: that all kids can succeed and that children who grow up in poverty face unique and significant challenges. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character introduces extensive research about the paramount role of noncognitive skills—or character work—in children’s success, and proposes a new system to support children in extreme poverty.
The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle
Daniel Coyle takes Malcolm Gladwell's "ten thousand hours" rule one step further: What's going on in muscles and in your brain when you get really good at an activity? What should you do to maximize the chances that practice yields excellence? Coyle looks at "talent hotbeds"—like Brazilian soccer fields and KIPP classrooms—to understand what breeds excellence and to develop a set of conclusions around talent, practice, and neurology.
Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World, Tom Vander Ark
Tom Vander Ark, formerly of the Gates Foundation, is now a full-time proselytizer for the power of technology to transform education. In this book, Vander Ark beautifully covers the field and produces a primer for the uninitiated. He explains technology's ability to customize content for each student—what we refer to as "differentiating learning"—and to use gaming techniques to capture student attention. Though this field is just emerging, chapter six spotlights a handful of the most promising digital learning models, including some up and running in DC.
The Great Reset, Richard Florida
One of the The Atlantic’s newest stars, Florida is a “new cities” scholar: he studies how the knowledge economy is reshaping cities—who lives there, what jobs are there, what the city looks like physically, and what these trends mean for education. In this book, Florida unpacks the creative destruction done by the recent recession to our old-city formula (think rings of suburbs in Detroit), and he predicts what cities will need to do to adapt and thrive for the next century. We found this book fascinating. Florida has a section specific to Washington, DC, as we are one of the flagship cities in the country where these new trends are coming together. Interestingly, our public education system—and the multi-generational poverty it aims to eradicate—is one of the only remaining barriers he identifies to DC having international city-superstar status. Anyone who thinks “3-D” about DC—about jobs and education and city planning and the knowledge economy—will like this book. It sounds dry: we promise it isn’t.
In the Deep Heart’s Core, Michael Johnston
Mike Johnston was a Teach For America corps member in the Mississippi Delta from 1997–1999, and this book is his memoir of those two years teaching in a severely impoverished, troubled school. It is a gritty, at times difficult, book, and it has been somewhat controversial for its bleak portrayal of many of the lives of his students. It’s an important book, however, for anyone who wants to deeply understand what is happening in the most dysfunctional of our American schools. Johnston is a superstar in the education reform firmament. As a current State Senator, he has been leading Colorado’s legislative education reform efforts—and has been having stunning success.
Class Warfare, Steven Brill
Brill’s book has generated some recent debate centering on whether he over-emphasizes the power of excellent teaching as a tool to advance student learning. We had just the opposite reaction: we think the book demonstrates that education reform is complex—that politics, policy, philanthropy, and practice all have to work together to create sustainable change.
Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson
"An idea is not a single thing. It is more like a swarm." In Where Good Ideas Come From, Johnson identifies the seven key patterns behind true innovation, examining great ideas from Darwin to Google to illustrate how to promote innovation on the scale of our everyday lives.
Whistling Vivaldi, Claude M. Steele
In Whistling Vivaldi, social psychologist Claude M. Steele explores the many (and surprising) ways that social stereotypes affect our lives. Steele uncovers the phenomenon of “stereotype threat,” whereby individuals confronted by a negative stereotype attached to their social identity underperform, ultimately confirming expectations. Tying the impact of stereotype threat to the achievement gap, Steele strategizes how to reduce its damaging effects.
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Many have read this book, but few of us have really talked about what it concludes about building effective schools. Gladwell argues that culture and a LOT of hard work are the keys to real success. He uses the KIPP schools in one chapter as an example of strong culture and hard work overcoming the seemingly intractable barriers of poverty and low expectations. This book is a “lighter” read, but all things Gladwell make for great discussion.
A Chance to Make History, Wendy Kopp
In A Chance to Make History, Teach For America (TFA) Founder Wendy Kopp reveals what it will take to provide all American children an outstanding education. Twenty years after she proposed TFA’s creation in her Princeton University undergraduate thesis, Wendy shares her unique insight as well as the stories of TFA teachers and alumni across the country, offering a vision of what is possible in public education.
Saving Schools, Paul Peterson
Everyone who didn’t major in education (which is most of us) should read this book. It’s the review we all need of the major trends in the history of American education. But—we promise!—it’s well-written, interesting, and each chapter is an easy length for one sitting. The sections on virtual learning and on “Baumol’s Disease” (the curse of diminishing quality and higher costs for labor-intensive industries) are especially relevant.
To learn more about CityBridge Book Club, please contact Jen Davis.