What Should a Left-ish but Open-Minded Teacher Read?

 

A friend asks a very good question:

I have a very close relative (elementary teacher) who is on the left end of the political spectrum, who has a book club largely inhabited by dedicated and talented teachers of similar persuasion, who would like her group to branch out a little and read some books from more conservative authors and academics. In this case, she would be interested in a book about conservative ideas and thoughts about education, and in particular, the intersection of education and race (she teaches in a majority minority school). She recognizes that I am no longer in retail politics but I might have some contacts with some recommendations for her group to consider.

This is a very thoughtful person and I would like to be able to give a couple of suggestions. I’m wondering if you have some suggestions? I see that Professor Sowell has a book out this year that appears to be a collection of papers on on education and I would put that on the list (Thomas Sowell is a tremendous resource, in my very humble opinion). I am not looking for anything of the “scorched earth” type; what I am looking for is something readable that isn’t 800 pages long and could open the door to some dialogue between groups that perhaps haven’t had much opportunity to do so.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, I’m interested in your opinion.

Thomas Sowell always represents a good place to start, of course, but do the Ricochetti have additional suggestions? Especially those of you who teach?

There are 72 comments.

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  1. Thatcher

    Losing the Race by John McWhorter.

    • #1
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:31 am
    • 2 likes
  2. Reagan

    I was going to suggest Sowell when I read the headline, specifically A Conflict of Visions, but since that’s taken:

    The Road to Serfdom is always my starting point when introducing left leaning friends to conservative ideas.

    Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman is probably more accessible.

    The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt is insightful for people of any political persuasion.

    • #2
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:35 am
    • 8 likes
  3. Thatcher

    Walter E. Williams, “Up from the Projects”. Jason Riley, “Please Stop Helping Us”. To remind her that all blacks are not victims.

    • #3
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:42 am
    • 8 likes
  4. Member

    Angleo Codivilla’s essay on “The Ruling Class”. And this 

    Here’s another fun one. 

    Richard Epstein’s latest podcast is a wonderful description of how the economic pie expands or contracts in socially fair ways or not. Start at about 18:00. Every word means something, of course.

    • #4
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:50 am
    • 1 like
  5. Member

    I think a good basic, very readable book would be Andrew Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation. Andrew started out with Leftist tendencies and found the light. He also supplies some much needed advice on how to deal with the reaction from the left when you start moving in the other direction. As former teacher, I can tell you that having that kind of ammunition in your quiver is a really good thing to have.

    • #5
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:56 am
    • 5 likes
  6. Member

    Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is an excellent book.

    • #6
    • September 10, 2017 at 10:58 am
    • 3 likes
  7. Reagan

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    I think a good basic, very readable book would be Andrew Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation. Andrew started out with Leftist tendencies and found the light. He also supplies some much needed advice on how to deal with the reaction from the left when you start moving in the other direction. As former teacher, I can tell you that having that kind of ammunition in your quiver is a really good thing to have.

    Unfortunately, the name alone is probably too toxic for anyone left of center to give the arguments credence.

    • #7
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:05 am
    • 1 like
  8. Member

    Afternoon Peter,

    As Jamie has suggested “The Righteous Mind” is great, exceptionally challenging for a left leaning person because it notes that the right’s moral arena is composed of a larger number of moral pieces. Haidt describes our moral world as being composed of several foundational beliefs and says the moral world of the right is shaped by more of those foundational parts. Haidt is a left leaning person and he is not trying to fault find left policies.

    For personal stories RushBabe49’s picks are super. Walter Williams is a “most unforgettable character”.

    Another book challenging to a left leaning person, “The Human Cost of Welfare”, Harvey and Conyers. It is a catalogue of welfare programs highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and demonstrating the crippling effects of welfare on individuals by giving snapshot case histories.

    • #8
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:05 am
    • 2 likes
  9. Coolidge

    I’m currently listening to Kirsten Powers’ The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech (2015). The interesting thing about it is that most of the victims of speech suppression in the stories she tells are not conservatives, but liberals who still believe in truth-telling and intellectual integrity.

    • #9
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:08 am
    • 5 likes
  10. Member

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):
    I think a good basic, very readable book would be Andrew Breitbart’s Righteous Indignation. Andrew started out with Leftist tendencies and found the light. He also supplies some much needed advice on how to deal with the reaction from the left when you start moving in the other direction. As former teacher, I can tell you that having that kind of ammunition in your quiver is a really good thing to have.

    Andrew Breitbart was dead-on about the Frankfurt School and Critical Theory etc. I pray to God the GOP wakes up about this stuff. Dennis Prager just had a very good guest on about the menace of the Frankfurt School.

    • #10
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:11 am
    • 5 likes
  11. Member

    Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell. It is about a lot more than economics.

    May I also suggest The Proper Procedure by Theodore Dalrymple. My review of it here.

    Seawriter

    • #11
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:15 am
    • 5 likes
  12. Coolidge

    While not political, Teacher Man by Frank McCourt is a wonderful book for any educators to read, especially for a book club. As McCourt taught in the idiotic system that makes up NY’s public schools, there is certainly a lot there that could lead to discussions about how education that is run by constant meddlers from above is not education at all, and that the system that stifles student creativity was not, actually, created by the misguided (and progressively minded) “No Child Left Behind.” It’s been with us for quite some time.

    Why would I suggest this book as a primer in conservatism?

    There are things that are not “conservative” at all about McCourt’s life, which is woven through the narrative, but most conservatives advocate for control in classrooms, teacher autonomy, and connecting with students in ways that make them think/feel/learn, and those views were foundational in McCourt’s teaching career.

    In chapter one he writes, “I didn’t have any particular philosophy of education except that I was uncomfortable with the bureaucrats, the higher-ups, who had escaped classrooms only to turn and bother the occupants of classrooms, teachers and students. I never wanted to fill out their forms, follow their guidelines, administer their examinations, tolerate their snooping, adjust myself to their programs and courses of study.”

    With the skill of an Irish story teller, McCourt chronicles how he reached his students in often unconventional ways that were mainly frowned upon but were, actually, what I’d call education. I, at least, connected deeply with McCourt’s experiences in the classroom.

    I don’t know if your friend will connect as much since she teaches elementary school, but I have had some of McCourt’s students reincarnated in a different generation.

    Perhaps pair this with another book someone else can suggest that goes into pedagogy.

    • #12
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:22 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Founder
    Peter Robinson Post author

    Wow. This post has been up for not quite 45 minutes, and just look.

    Once again, the good people of Ricochet evoke my awe.

    Keep the suggestions comin’!

    • #13
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:23 am
    • 1 like
  14. Member

    One generic point.

    IMO, anything that tells people to suck it up in a never ending 2% GDP economy that is unstable and regressive is a bad idea. I can not stand this type of preaching right now.

    • #14
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:25 am
    • Like
  15. Thatcher

    If you want to undermine rather than confront the rather flimsy prejudices of leftish teachers with open intellectual dispositions (and they do exist) I would suggest Joel Spring’s book “A Primer of Libertarian Education.” Spring speaks their language (he’s a professor at CUNY) but he is a great advocate for parents and communities and individual liberty against bureaucratic despotism, however seemingly benign.

    • #15
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • 2 likes
  16. Member

    Russel Kirk.

    Conservative Mind is a survey. A must read for conservatives, but also a really good overview for open minded learners.

    • #16
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:48 am
    • Like
  17. Thatcher

    RufusRJones (View Comment):
    One generic point.

    IMO, anything that tells people to suck it up in a never ending 2% GDP economy that is unstable and regressive is a bad idea. I can not stand this type of preaching right now.

    I’m not sure if the books listed above do that.

    A primary reason why we’re in 2% GDP (even with record-setting gov’t spending, which is a component of GDP) is because of politicians telling us they know how to fix the economy – with more spending.

    If it’s unstable and “regressive”, as you describe (and I’m not sure I understand how you’re using those words), then there’s a reason. And possibly, a fix for it. The answer, as historical economic data shows, is not more gov’t spending (from a long-run perspective).

    Which is why some of the books cited, especially from Hayek, can help clarify economics to those not traditionally steeped in those basics, at least from a more empirical perspective.

    • #17
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:50 am
    • 3 likes
  18. Member

    Roger Scruton’s The Meaning of Conservatism.

    One too little mentioned book: Robert Nisbet’s The Quest for Community.

    • #18
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:50 am
    • 1 like
  19. Contributor

    Though I second several recommendations here, I’m going to put a vote in for The Rational Optimist, especially if someone likes science and tech.

    It’s an entertaining and relatively easy read that — among other things — introduces people to a lot of the ideas they’d find in The Fatal Conceit (a much better, more timeless book, but one that takes more effort).

    • #19
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:57 am
    • 5 likes
  20. Member

    I’d recommend End of Discussion by Mary Katherine Ham and Guy Benson because it directly addresses multiple topics from a Conservative perspective with an emphasis on being open to arguments and reasoned discussion. It is also a book written by two attractive and relatable young conservatives who are generally not what liberals think of when they think of the conservative movement.

    • #20
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:58 am
    • 4 likes
  21. Reagan

    Gleeful Warrior (View Comment):
    I’d recommend End of Discussion by Mary Katherine Ham and Guy Benson because it directly addresses multiple topics from a Conservative perspective with an emphasis on being open to arguments and reasoned discussion. It is also a book written by two attractive and relatable young conservatives who are generally not what liberals think of when they think of the conservative movement.

    I saw a great interview with Guy Benson where he talked about how they ran the book past a liberal editors and friends to get their opinion on where they weren’t being fair to the other side. I found that remarkable.

    • #21
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm
    • 2 likes
  22. Contributor

    Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. If she’s never read The Federalist Papers . . .

    • #22
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm
    • 10 likes
  23. Contributor

    Hard to believe it’s 30 years old now, but Allan Bloom’s Closing Of The American Mind is always an insightful read.

    • #23
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:15 pm
    • 10 likes
  24. Inactive

    Anything and everything by Gertrude Himmelfarb.

    • #24
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:17 pm
    • 1 like
  25. Member

    Recommended reading for parents from my kids’ Hillsdale-inspired charter high school:

    Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. (1998)

    Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education by William Kilpatrick (1992)

    The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis (1943)

    Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl (1959)

    The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (2009)

    I haven’t read all of these, but, given Hillsdale’s approach to education, I’m betting they’re not overtly “conservative.” They just tell the truth, which happens to comport with conservatism most of the time.

    • #25
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm
    • 5 likes
  26. Member

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    If it’s unstable and “regressive”, as you describe (and I’m not sure I understand how you’re using those words), then there’s a reason. And possibly, a fix for it. The answer, as historical economic data shows, is not more gov’t spending (from a long-run perspective).

    I mean the remuneration and the problems are disbursed unfairly in a low GDP economy. The central banks have clearly blown the biggest bubbles ever, planet-wide.

    We need to adopt something like the Swiss health insurance system or we will get single payer good and hard. Other than that we need to go mega-libertarian. See David Stockman and Deirdre McCloskey etc.

    • #26
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm
    • 1 like
  27. Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    The Road to Serfdom is always my starting point when introducing left leaning friends to conservative ideas.

    Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman is probably more accessible.

    The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt is insightful for people of any political persuasion.

    I triple agree with “The Road to Serfdom” and “The Righteous Mind.” I’m adding “Free to Choose” to my own list. I don’t believe Haight’s book is dissuasive for a lefty due to Haight’s findings, my concern is that the book is closer to a research paper than a narrative. Haight remains a man of the left, and frames his discussion in this manner. I’d love to bring every lefty friend I have to hear him speak. I found him more engaging “live” than in print. Given the increasingly — and, uncharitably stated, juvenile and emotionally-focused approach of content from the left in general, Haight may be a turn-off. So, if the book club wants a more of a clinical approach to our divide, it might fit the bill.

    • #27
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:48 pm
    • 1 like
  28. Member

    Radical Son by David Horowitz would be more conducive of conversation in a book club setting than a more polemical book.

    • #28
    • September 10, 2017 at 12:54 pm
    • 5 likes
  29. Member

    If everyone is going to invoke “The Road to Serfdom” I don’t get why Ricochet doesn’t have an Austrian economics podcast. I mean it. The simple fact is we are going to end up with a Ron Paul world the hard way. It’s inevitable.

    • #29
    • September 10, 2017 at 1:04 pm
    • 1 like
  30. Member

    Stasiland, by Anna Funder, vividly portrays what living in a totalitarian society (in this case, East Germany) really does to people. I reviewed it here.

    • #30
    • September 10, 2017 at 1:34 pm
    • 1 like
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