Like educators and students across the United States, people here at EdSurge are enjoying a holiday (and publishing) break during the last week of 2022. But we couldn’t bear to leave you without some interesting reading and listening material during this wintry week, filled with short days and long nights.
Our journalists and editors have therefore reflected on the articles, books and podcasts that have marked us the most this year and we are sharing them with you. This collection includes selections related to education and some that go far beyond the classroom. Enjoy!
I read about the child care crisis to learn more about the lived experiences of early childhood professionals, the pain points faced by families, and the challenges faced by our youngest learners. The article “The balance of child care in the United States has been brokenpublished in The Atlantic by Elliot Haspel, offers insightful insight into the crisis, why childcare work is so devalued and the need to invest in the childcare workforce – which is , according to Haspel, “means finally giving child care providers the recognition and compensation they have long deserved.
I also learned a lot from this Scientific American article, “America’s kids are falling behind the global competition, but brain science shows how to catch upwhich examines how and why paid family leave and quality child care are linked to brain development. It highlights a gap between what science says young children need and what US policy provides and stresses the need to let scientific evidence guide policy and practice.
Outside of education, I appreciate the work of Liane Fincka cartoonist and illustrator who regularly contributes to the new yorker. I find his cartoons, which are often an interpretation of nature and human behavior, fascinating and witty. The opening to this writing, written by Finck, explains why I find his work so entertaining. “A single-panel cartoon is a joke in cartoon form: you start with a setup, then add a punchline. The setup should be something most of your readers will recognize, so they get the joke,” she wrote. This year I needed something a little playful and Finck delivered.
I am interested in the impact of housing insecurity on education. My interest was therefore drawn to this carefully composed piece in Chalkbeat, “Hidden toll: Thousands of schools don’t count homeless students.” With an impressive review of the data and an exploration of some of the related issues, the writers, Amy DiPierro and Corey Mitchell, do a good job explaining how families like the Petersens are “invisible.”
Another: Colleges face an “enrollment cliff” as the pool of college-age students shrinks, a long-delayed reverberation of the Great Recession. I was struck by the tight argumentation of Vox’s recent essay, “The incredible shrunken future of collegewritten by Kevin Carey of New America. Carey argues that declining college attendance, especially in post-industrial areas of the Northeast and Midwest, can create “ghost colleges.” The result will not be good for many of these cities.
If you’re looking for something outside of education, I recommend Italo Calvino’s “The Invisible Cities,” which runs through a series of graceful, imaginative conversations between Kublai Khan and Marco Polo. I had the chance to read it again recently, and it helped me think about what it means to live in a city. I really learned a lot from Calvino, who is criminally underrated. Maybe you do too. Plus, it’s fortunately short.
I remember few other things that moved me this year like the Washington Post story, “an american girl,” did. John Woodrow Cox’s story follows 10-year-old Uvalde survivor Caitlyne Gonzales as she seeks healing from the horrors of the May Massacre she witnessed in her school classroom. It’s not comfortable reading, but it’s necessary, reminding us that while some have the luxury of driving so much pain and suffering from our minds, others are forced to relive it every day.
I also liked to listen “Where is my village?,” a limited podcast series from Fortune, about America’s child care crisis and efforts to address it. Each episode touched on themes and even specific people and programs that we’ve covered in our own early childhood reporting, but I loved how the show paints a full picture for listeners and really draws in the voices of all parties involved: providers, educators, policy makers, parents, employers. If you have long drives to do or cleaning to do this winter, it’s worth listening to.
Outside of education, I can’t stop telling anyone who wants to listen to what I’ve learned from “Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family», a non-fiction book by journalist Robert Kolker. The book dives deep into a family of 12 Colorado Springs children, six of whom would eventually be diagnosed with schizophrenia, and all of whom would help inform research and science on mental illness for decades to come.
I’ve been accused more than once of never seeming to watch or read anything ‘light’, and as I write these recommendations, I’m beginning to see why….
I thoroughly enjoyed the Houston Chronicle’s deep dive into the Texas school book ban with the catchy headline “Most push to ban books in Texas schools came from politician and GOP pressure, not parents.”
Reporters made 600 public information requests to school districts in their effort to find out which books were under scrutiny. Spoiler: most of them dealt with LGBTQ or racial equity issues. (As someone who fought city governments over public records, I like to imagine Chron reporters buying antacids in bulk to deal with all the heartburn.)
Each part of the story was compelling (experts say removing books dealing with difficult issues does more harm than good) or brought to light something new (a school district in San Antonio removed 119 books). It’s a great example of how data can be used to cut through the political fog and put a situation to rest.
Do you like history? Do you like puppets? If you said yes to either, you should definitely check it out. history of puppets. The webshow covered a veritable buffet of topics ranging from Boston’s Great Molasses Flood to the incredible lifestyle of the world’s richest man, Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire. I never knew I wanted historical facts delivered in the form of a game show hosted by a blue puppet dressed in an American Girl Doll explorer outfit. Or that I needed to hear the songs of an anthropomorphic pile of diamonds from a necklace supposedly commissioned by Marie Antoinette in 1785. It’s also the perfect thing to put in the background while baking.
In education news, I learned a lot about the aspirations of people who run home-based early childhood programs — and the challenges they face — by reading this Washington Post article: “In Texas, child care providers are reverting to a broken system.The story, by Casey Parks, follows BriTanya Bays as she tries to make ends meet while recruiting families to send their children to her program, Our Loving Village.
Perhaps it was the lingering loneliness of the pandemic that led me to reading novels with huge character casts this year. If you’re also looking for the joy and bustle of community, I recommend: “Deacon King Kong“by James McBride,”Everything is illuminatedby Jonathan Safran Foer andThe Midnight Childrenby Salman Rushdie.
It’s hard to capture the eerie vibe in classrooms these days. This seems especially true on college campuses. A few months ago, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education managed to give a comprehensive overview of what some teachers consider to be an “astonishing” level of student disengagement in all types of higher education institutions. The reporter who helmed the story, Beth McMurtrie, cleverly appealed to teachers to share their stories, and over 100 did. They describe students who have trouble getting to class or concentrating if they attend. And younger students, whose final years of high school have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the remote learning it has forced, seem particularly poised to struggle. The article inspired me to do an episode of the EdSurge podcast where I visited a campus to describe disengagement in large course classes and allow listeners to hear from students and faculty struggling with these issues.
Beyond the realm of education, my favorite book of the year was “The candy houseby Jennifer Egan. It’s my kind of sci-fi, where an idea of futuristic technology serves as the background reality, but it’s not the main focus. In this case, the novel is set in the near future where a Silicon Valley startup sells a product that allows everyone to capture their memories and share them in a digital collective. A few resisters refuse to participate, but the lure is irresistible for most, since the arrangement is that you can only see other people’s memories (even their memories of you) if you share all of your own consciousness. The characters don’t talk much about this product (called “Own Your Unknown”) but it still permeates the plot, and the result is a timely riff on how to achieve authenticity in the age of social media.