25 Must-Read Books for the Educational Hacktivist or Contrarian

Maybe you love the way things are going in modern education. Perhaps you are desperately looking for an alternative. Or, you might already be deeply rooted in alternative education or educational entrepreneurship. No matter. The following reading list is sure to get you thinking, exploring the possibilities, and shaping your own educational philosophy.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it is far from neutral. What I’ve included below are some of my favorite texts that challenging some of the more conventional ways of thinking about learning and education. These are texts that challenge us to rethink schooling and learning. Some are written for educators; others for the students or parents; and still others for policy-makers, educational difference-makers, or just people who care about education. Some are detailed and refined. Some are rough around the edges, but their ideas are penetrating, thought-provoking, and downright challenging to many things that often go unquestioned in modern educational organizations. What these books have in common is an ability to getting us thinking more deeply about education, inviting us to challenge the status quo, and providing us different perspectives than what we find in may classrooms and educational institutions.

I don’t expect you to agree with everything in these books. I sure don’t. However, each of these authors, in their distinct ways, help us look at things differently, whether it is how schools should run, what constitutes good assessments, what it takes to grow as a competent and confident learner, the role of entrepreneurship in education, or the meaning and value of grades and diplomas. I guarantee that reading these books, even five of them, will give you a new view of modern schooling.

  1. Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman
  2. What Does it Mean to be Well Educated? by Alphie Kohn
  3. Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook: A short Guide to Her Ideas an Materials by Maria Montessori
  4. Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment by Maja Wilson
  5. On Grades and Grading by Timothy Quinn
  6. De-testing, De-grading Schools: Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization edited by Joe Bower and P.L. Thomas
  7. Cool Colleges for the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different by Donald Asher
  8. Social Entrepreneurship in Education: Private Ventures for the Public Good by Michael Sandler
  9. The Unschooling Handbook: How to Ue the Whole World As Your Child’s Classroom Mary Griffith
  10. The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn
  11. How to Succeed in School Without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education by David Labaree
  12. Self-Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers by Malcolm Knowles
  13. Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling by David Labaree
  14. Schools for Growth: Radical Alternatives to Current Educational Models by Lois Holzman
  15. The Game of School: Why We all Play it, How it Hurts Kids, and What it Will Take to Change It by Robert Fried
  16. Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead but Don’t Leave by Barnett Barry and Ann Byrd
  17. The Future of Educational Entrepreneurship by Frederick Hess
  18. Starting a Sudbury School: A Summary of the Experiences of Fifteen Start-up Groups by Daniel Greenberg and Mimsy Sadofsky
  19. Getting it Wrong from the Beginning: Our Progressivist Inheritance from Herbert Spencer, John Dewey and Jean Piaget by Kieran Egan
  20. Informal Learning by Jay Cross
  21. Hacking Your Education by Dale Stephens
  22. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  23. One Size Does Not Fit All by Nikhil Goyal
  24. Mind Amplifiers: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter by Howard Rheingold
  25. The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto

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