Sign up to join the Social Justice Unionism Summer Reading Series, hosted by Working Educators and Teacher Action Group. Join a small group of colleagues, educators, and supporters from around the city to hone in on some of the biggest issues facing education and unionism.
Below you will find summaries of the books we are currently organizing groups for. Please fill out the survey at the bottom to sign up for a book group. If you'd like to host a group for a different book, please contact us at [email protected]
Once you submit the survey below, your hosts will be in touch shortly to determine the times and dates that will be most convenient for you. We encourage you to sign up for more as many book groups as you'd like.
In order to sign up for multiple books, please submit the survey below a second (or third, or fourth!) time for any other books. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Looking forward to reading with you!
The WE and TAG Teams
Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools by Diane Ravitch
In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy public schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to the claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point.
Reign of Error begins where The Death and Life of the Great American School System left off, providing a deeper argument against privatization and for public education, and in a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, putting forth a plan for what can be done to preserve and improve it. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can fix it.
For Ravitch, public school education is about knowledge, about learning, about developing character, and about creating citizens for our society. It’s about helping to inspire independent thinkers, not just honing job skills or preparing people for college. Public school education is essential to our democracy, and its aim, since the founding of this country, has been to educate citizens who will help carry democracy into the future.
The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch
A passionate plea to preserve and renew public education, The Death and Life of the Great American School System is a radical change of heart from one of America’s best-known education experts.
Diane Ravitch—former assistant secretary of education and a leader in the drive to create a national curriculum—examines her career in education reform and repudiates positions that she once staunchly advocated. Drawing on over forty years of research and experience, Ravitch critiques today’s most popular ideas for restructuring schools, including privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and the feckless multiplication of charter schools. She shows conclusively why the business model is not an appropriate way to improve schools. Using examples from major cities like New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver, and San Diego, Ravitch makes the case that public education today is in peril.
Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia by Matthew Countryman
Up South traces the efforts of two generations of black Philadelphians to turn the City of Brotherly Love into a place of promise and opportunity for all. Although Philadelphia rarely appears in histories of the modern civil rights struggle, the city was home to a vibrant and groundbreaking movement for racial justice in the years between World War II and the 1970s. By broadening the chronological and geographic parameters of the civil rights movement, Up South explores the origins of civil rights liberalism, the failure of the liberal program of antidiscrimination legislation and interracial coalition-building to deliver on its promise of racial equality, and the subsequent rise of the Black Power movement.
Challenging the view that it was the inflammatory rhetoric of Black Power and the rising demands of black activists that derailed the civil rights movement, Up South documents the efforts of Black Power activists in Philadelphia to construct a vital and effective social movement that combined black nationalism's analysis of racism's constitutive role in American society with a program of grassroots community organizing and empowerment. On issues ranging from public education and urban renewal to police brutality and welfare, Philadelphia's Black Power movement remade the city's political landscape. And, in contrast to the top-down middle-class leadership of traditional civil rights groups, Black Power in Philadelphia fundamentally altered the composition of black leadership in the city to include a new cohort of neighborhood-based working-class and female black community activists.
Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement by Jane Mcalevey and Bob Ostertag
In 1995, in the first contested election in the history of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney won the presidency of the nation’s largest labor federation, promising renewal and resurgence. Today, less than 7 percent of American private-sector workers belong to a union, the lowest percentage since the beginning of the twentieth century, and public employee collective bargaining has been dealt devastating blows in Wisconsin and elsewhere. What happened?
Jane McAlevey is famous—and notorious—in the American labor movement as the hard-charging organizer who racked up a string of victories at a time when union leaders said winning wasn’t possible. Then she was bounced from the movement, a victim of the high-level internecine warfare that has torn apart organized labor. In this engrossing and funny narrative—that reflects the personality of its charismatic, wisecracking author—McAlevey tells the story of a number of dramatic organizing and contract victories, and the unconventional strategies that helped achieve them.
Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) argues that labor can be revived, but only if the movement acknowledges its mistakes and fully commits to deep organizing, participatory education, militancy, and an approach to workers and their communities that more resembles the campaigns of the 1930s—in short, social movement unionism that involves raising workers’ expectations (while raising hell).
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein
In her ground-breaking reporting from Iraq, Naomi Klein exposed how the trauma of invasion was being exploited to remake the country in the interest of foreign corporations. She called it "disaster capitalism." Covering Sri Lanka in the wake of the tsunami, and New Orleans post-Katrina, she witnessed something remarkably similar. People still reeling from catastrophe were being hit again, this time with economic "shock treatment" losing their land and homes to rapid-fire corporate makeovers.
The Shock Doctrine retells the story of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free market economic revolution. In contrast to the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory, Klein shows how it has exploited moments of shock and extreme violence in order to implement its economic policies in so many parts of the world from Latin America and Eastern Europe to South Africa, Russia, and Iraq. At the core of disaster capitalism is the use of cataclysmic events to advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself. By capitalizing on crises, created by nature or war, Klein argues that the disaster capitalism complex now exists as a booming new economy, and is the violent culmination of a radical economic project that has been incubating for fifty years.
Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity by Micah Uetricht
The Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle so far this century—and perhaps for the last forty years—and the strongest challenge to the conservative agenda for restructuring education, which advocates for more charter schools and tying teacher salaries to standardized testing, among other changes.
In 2012, Chicago teachers built a grassroots movement through education and engagement of an entire union membership, taking militant action in the face of enormous structural barriers and a hostile Democratic Party leadership. The teachers won massive concessions from the city and have become a new model for school reform led by teachers themselves, rather than by billionaires. Strike for America is the story of this movement, and how it has become the defining struggle for the labor movement today.
How to Jump-Start Your Union: Lessons from the Chicago Teachers by Labor Notes
This book tells how activists transformed their union and gave members hope. Readers will learn how to run for office, work with their communities, build a stewards network, train new leaders, run a contract campaign, and strike. By Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, Jenny Brown, Jane Slaughter, and Samantha Winslow.
A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education by Mercedes K. Schneider
"Corporate reform" is not reform at all. Instead, it is the systematic destruction of the foundational American institution of public education. The primary motivation behind this destruction is greed. Public education in America is worth almost a trillion dollars a year. Whereas American public education is a democratic institution, its destruction is being choreographed by a few wealthy, well-positioned individuals and organizations. This book investigates and exposes the handful of people and institutions that are often working together to become the driving force behind destroying the community public school.
Class Action: An Activist Teacher’s Handbook by Bhaskar Sunkara
Jacobin magazine and the Chicago Teachers Union's CORE Caucus present a 118-page booklet on corporate education reform and the efforts to resist its agenda. Featuring CTU President Karen Lewis, economist Dean Baker, Jacobin editors Megan Erickson and Bhaskar Sunkara, Joanne Barken, and many others.