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For Your Consideration 5.2

The Favorite Books of Several Well-Known Educators

The intent of this issue of The Docent Educator is to examine the field of education and to reflect upon its relevance to teaching within museums, historic sites, zoos, parks, and gardens. A recent survey reported in Teacher Magazine lists the all-time favorite texts of some very distinguished educators. Perhaps their preferences offer additional resources for improving and expanding our vision, as well as our educational programming and tours.

Among those listed were the following:

Adam Urbanski (President of the Rochester, NY Teachers Association). Lateral Thinking, by Edward de Bono.

“About 10 years ago. upon the recommendation of Grant Wiggins, I read Edward de Bono’s book. It was an important experience for me, reaffirming what 1 have suspected all along: that there is more than one way to think.

“The author lays out the differences between what he calls ‘vertical thinking” and “lateral thinking.’ Vertical thinking, he argues, is logical thinking, asking ‘How can we improve upon something?’ Lateral thinking instead poses the question, ‘What else could we have done other than this?’ Vertical thinking is incremental and safe. Lateral thinking is more akin to creativity, insight, and humor. It is more risky, but the payoff can be much greater.”

William Ayers (Author and Associate Professor of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago). A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines.

“I was captivated this year by Ernest Gaines’ riveting portrait of a teacher locked in solidarity and struggle with a resistant student. The teacher, an ambitious young man in the segregated South, has been tapped by his elderly aunt’s best friend to teach her godson, a convicted murderer, ‘to be a man before he dies.’

“While the novel’s circumstances are extreme, the interaction is familiar, recognizable. Every teacher know the irony of teaching what we ourselves neither fully know nor understand. We can remember moments of intense self-reflection, consciousness shifts, and personal growth brought on by our attempts to teach.”

Steven Drummond (Associate Editor of Education Week and a former teacher). Death at an Early Age, by Jonathan Kozol.

“With force and with passion, this book reminds teachers that they must constantly question both themselves and the way teaching work. It challenges every teacher to defy things that are done because they’ve always been done that way — not because they are best for children.”

Grace McEntee (Senior Associate with the Coalition of Essential Schools in Providence, RI). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihályi.

“Csikszentmihályi writes about experiences that you have had yourself, such as skiing — where you think of nothing else but skiing. All of your attention is on that next mogul as you fly down the mountain, right at the edge of your ability. I see teaching as being like this. When you’re in a class and it’s going well, nothing else maters besides that class: You’re stretching as a teacher, and your students are stretching. That for me is a flow experience.

“This book offers a new way of looking at work and at hard things that we do. It’s a way of looking at life so that hard tasks become wonderful challenges.”


Lateral Thinking, by Edward de Bono. (Harper & Row, 1970.) Available in paperback, $13; to order, call: (800) 242-7737.

A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest Gaines. (Knopf, 1993.) Available in paperback, $1 1; to order, call: (800) 733-3000.

Death at an Early Age, by J. Kozol. (Button, 1985.) Available in paperback, $10.95; to order call: (212) 366-2000.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihalyi Csikszentmihályi (Harper & Row, 1990.) Available in paperback, $18.50; to order, call: (800) 242-7737.

Some New Museums Open Their Doors

Several new museums have opened this fall. They include:

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. An impressive building by I. M. Pei holds interactive exhibits and an array of music memoriabilia. The museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio, where “rock and roll” was given its name.

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. A display of more than a million shells from around the world can be seen at this new museum on Florida’s shell-rich Sanibel Island, which is located near Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf Coast. For information call (941) 395-2233

White Pine Camp. The Adirondack retreat and summer White House for President Calvin Coolidge has been restored and opened to the public. Built in 1907 and 1908, the camp is located in Paul Smiths, NY, on Saranac Lake. For information call (518) 327-3030.

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 5.2 (Winter 1995-96): 14.

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