31 Of The Most Influential Books About Education Ever Printed

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by Grant Wiggins

With the holidays soon upon us, I thought it appropriate to provide a list of what are arguably the most historically influential books in education, as we ponder gifts for colleagues, friends and loved ones who are educators.

This list came from a crowd-source appeal via Twitter and an email to colleagues and friends. Each book on the list received at least 5 votes from the 50 or so folks who responded; good enough for me. Yes, I know – it’s subjective. Yes, I know – it’s almost all men. Yes, I know – you are appalled at the inclusion of x and the failure to include y. Yes, it probably reflects educators ‘of a certain age’.

But, hey – it’s my blog (editor’s note: or his space on TeachThought!), and that’s why there is a REPLY box: make your case! But recall the criterion: influential, not merely “I liked it”.

In case you are interested, my choices were: Plato, Rousseau, Dewey, Polya, and Tyler. It’s truly shocking to me how few math teachers have read Polya, IMHO; it’s sad how few people read Dewey anymore (admittedly not easy reading) since his vision framed the mission for most modern educators. And Tyler is my guru – the author of ‘backward design’ thinking, 70 years ago. I would not have included Lortie, Callahan, or Silberman even though I like all 3 books, because they are more of about history/sociology than a theoretical or practical guide. I wanted Alvin Toffler for Future Shock – no one else selected him, alas.

I can honestly say I had read all of them except one: I was initially unfamiliar with the Rosenblatt, a surprisingly modern view of teaching English from many decades ago, and have now read it – good stuff.

Note that there are no books on the list from 1990 – present.  Too early to make the call, in my humble opinion. The books that follow are thus ‘classics’, deserving of your time and thought. All of them, even the ones with which you might have issues, provide great food for thought. So, bon appetit!

Adler, MortimerPaideia Proposal
Apple, MichaelIdeology and Curriculum
Bloom, BenjaminTaxonomy of Educational Objectives Vol 1
Boyer, ErnestHigh School
Bruner, JeromeThe Process of Education
Callahan, RaymondThe Cult of Efficiency
Dewey, JohnThe Child and the Curriculum
Dewey, JohnDemocracy & Education
Freire, PauloPedagogy of the Oppressed
Gardner, HowardFrames of Mind
Goodlad, JohnA Place Called School
Hirsch, E. D.Cultural Literacy
Kozol, JonathonDeath At An Early Age
Kuhn, ThomasThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Lortie, DanSchool Teacher
Montessori, MariaThe Montessori Method
Neill, A. S.Summerhill
Piaget, JeanThe Language & Thought of the Child
PlatoAllegory of the Cave from The Republic
Polya, GeorgHow To Solve It
Postman, N & Weingartner, CTeaching As A Subversive Activity
Rosenblatt, LouiseThe Poem, the Text, the Reader
Rousseau, Jean JacquesEmile
Silberman, CharlesCrisis in the Classroom
Simon, S; Howe, L; Kirschenbaum, HValues Clarification
Sizer, TedHorace’s Compromise
Taba, HildaCurriculum: Theory and Practice
Tyler, RalphThe Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction
Vygotsky, LevThought and Language
Whitehead, A. N.The Aims of Education & Other Essays

This post first appeared on Grant’s personal blog 


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