Critical Thinking and Values
Asking the Right Questions by Neil Browne and Stuart Keeley ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: A clear and concise critical thinking textbook
Useful For: Breaking down complex issues, logical fallacies, types of evidence, and values.
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: An exceptionally important book about how thinking works, with plenty of entertaining descriptions of common flaws.
Useful For: Making humanity more powerful. A roadmap to logical fallacies and entrenched biases.
The Better Angels of our Nature by Steven Pinker ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: The most important book I have ever read. Pinker tracks violence through the centuries and offers key values for maintaining peace and anti-values that persistently threaten it.
Useful For: Changing your view of the world. I use the “demons” or anti-values (dominance, revenge, ideology, sadism) as lenses to help students understand conflict.
The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: An account of how values shape motivation and conflict. If given the opportunity to have every person read one book, it would be this one.
Useful For: A guide to values and value conflicts. Understanding people who you would have otherwise dismissed as crazy or stupid (if you’re one to do that).
Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: A strategy guide for common conflicts.
Useful for: Mediating and navigating social problems. I teach these concepts directly to students as proactively as I can and as reactively as needed.
Humanity; A Moral History of the 20th Century by Jonathan Glover ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: An incisive dissection of the tragic events and social movements of the last hundred years. Glover uses our basic psychological make-up as an analytical lens to explain how morally righteous people can make sense of participating in profoundly destructive actions.
Useful for: An exemplar of historical analysis incorporating psychology and philosophy and a treasure trove of powerful case examples.
What is Intelligence? by James R. Flynn ✯✯✯✯
Description: A sustained meditation on the ways researchers have attempted to define and measure intelligences and an attempt to explain how and why students have improved over several generations.
Useful for: A deep look at the underlying skills we hope the students are picking up. A breakdown of IQ and implications for the classroom.
Historical Thinking by Sam Wineburg ✯✯✯✯
Description: A compilation of studies on the ways students process information. He focuses on history, but much of the material is easily transferable to other disciplines. This book made me a much better teacher.
Useful For: Play-by-play accounts of how students and professionals read and make inferences.
Mindwise by Nicholas Epley ✯✯✯✯
Description: A survey of our ability and inability to make inferences about other people, specifically about what they think and how they feel. All chapters are valuable, but two on dehumanization and anthropomorphization are particularly important and powerful.
Useful For: A reminder of our limitations and a strident call to simply ask and survey people before making decisions that affect them. It is also very entertainingly written and appropriate for students.
Somebodies and Nobodies by Robert Fuller ✯✯✯✯
Description: A look at status and rank in our communities and the corrosive impact of rankism, or our tacit acceptance of the abuse of rank.
Useful For: An analytical framework for social groups and communities in general. Students can apply this lens to historical events, literature, and most importantly, our own communities.
Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student by Edward Corbett ✯✯✯✯
Description: A college text outlining the key elements of rhetoric, with examples from both ancient and modern sources.
Useful For: A sourcebook of rhetorical techniques and examples. Not an easy reader, however.
Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer ✯✯✯✯
Description: An engaging and witty book on memory acquisition, highlighting all the important research of recent years on expertise, motivation, and deliberate practice.
Useful For: Memory strategies and a useful vocabulary of learning.
Dignity by Donna Hicks ✯✯✯✯
Description: A dissection of conflict through the lens of key values, anchored by the danger of “dignity violations.”
Useful For: Key vocabulary for conflict negotiation, including useful lists of relevant values and common reasons we violate dignity.
Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter ✯✯✯✯
Description: An entertaining look numerous forces that shape our perception of the world.
Useful For: Among other valuable material, his chapter on Labels is particularly relevant to help students see how the labels and categories we use shape our perceptions.
Education for Thinking by Deanna Kuhn ✯✯✯
Description: An overview of the poverty of busywork, with a pretty compelling curriculum targeting key thinking skills
Useful For: A chart detailing the stages of understanding (Realist, Absolutist, Multiplist, and Evaluativist)
Mind Wide Open by Steven Johnson ✯✯✯
Description: A pop-science book on the cognitive revolution, circa 2004. Still useful as a light guide to the brain
Useful For: A light guide to the brain, including research that was cutting edge ten years ago. (Not quite as user-friendly as Brain Rules, but generally very chatty and engaging.)
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson ✯✯✯
Description: A brief and engaging set of theories about why kids are getting progressively smarter (The Flynn Effect).
Useful For: An extremely easy introduction into the debates surrounding the definition and measurement of intelligence.
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell ✯✯✯
Description: An entertaining look at the power of intuition.
Useful For: A general sense of how we make inferences. An ultra-lite introduction to Kahneman’s research.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely ✯✯✯
Description: An entertaining set of studies on the unpredictability of human behavior.
Useful For: A series of set-pieces on motivation and values.
General Learning, Motivation, and Organization
Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: An extraordinarily practical text breaking down the science of habit formation and offering step-by-step strategies to implement better routines and practices.
Useful For: Changing your life for the better, and more importantly developing a bank of strategies to offer students when they are struggling.
Whistling Vivaldi by Claude Steele ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: Steele breaks down his seminal research on the impact of identity on performance and outlines the various interventions that have had a measurable impact on alleviating stereotype threat.
Useful For: A paradigm shift in the way we analyze academic performance and how to assess the variables that truly matter. A powerful argument to pay close attention to the context and environment of a given challenge and to avoid quick inferences concerning the character and “natural ability” of those participating.
Brain Rules by John Medina ✯✯✯✯✯
Description: A user’s guide to the human brain, Medina includes chapters on exercise, memory, stress, sleep, and lots of other useful topics.
Useful For: Middle School Summer Reading, understanding why I’m so tired all of the time.
Mindset by Carol Dweck ✯✯✯✯
Description: An extended argument detailing the power of growth mindsets over fixed mindsets.
Useful For: Instilling students with a view of education that can bolster them against a storm of obstacles.
Bounce by Matthew Syed ✯✯✯✯
Description: A chatty and convincing overview of the power of deliberate practice over various incarnations of the talent myth.
Useful For: Middle School Summer Reading, though a few chapters on sports ethics can be skipped.
Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov ✯✯✯✯
Description: An administrator observed hundreds of teachers to boil down the essence of good teaching. He came up with 49 important elements.
Useful For: 49 useful elements of teaching, though many target younger students. Best for classroom management issues.
The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch ✯✯✯
Description: A pop-science walk through recent brain research, with a focus on impact of puberty on the brain.
Useful for: An explanation for why teens act so bizarrely. I regularly recommend it to parents.
Quiet by Susan Cain ✯✯✯
Description: A look at current research on introversion and extraversion and the implications for how we run our organizations and classrrooms.
Useful for: A reminder that silence is not an indicator of weak thinking skills. It also offers a nice vocabulary of personality types and sensitivities.
How Children Succeed by Paul Tough ✯✯✯
Description: A journalist wades into current (2012) educational trends, including grit, KIPP schools, mindset, habit formation, and character building programs.
Useful For: Offers a good argument for persistence and ways to tailor programming towards process and away from product.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg ✯✯✯
Description: A light-as-air overview of, well, the power of habit.
Useful For: Reinforcing the idea that little things matter. A number of anecdotes and case examples are useful for convincing students.
Wounded by School by Kirsten Olson ✯✯✯
Description: An argument against education via fear, using lots of compelling examples.
Useful For: A healthy reminder that many students enter your classroom are nursing old bruises.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell ✯✯✯
Description: An exceptionally entertaining walk through deliberate practice and Ericsson’s ten-thousand-hour rule for world-class expertise.
Useful For: Convincing students and parents that hard work and good habits are the only path to success. Opportunity and luck are important too, but hard work is the driver.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande ✯✯✯
Description: A powerful argument for sustainable habits and protocol across fields.
Useful For: Organizational techniques for students, teachers, and administrators.
Give and Take by Adam Grant ✯✯✯
Description: Grant analyzes organizations through the lens of givers, takers, and matchers. In short, it’s good to be a giver, but you have to protect yourself to some degree from takers.
Useful For: Two chapters are especially relevant to schools. One is how to spot a diamond in the rough. The conclusion is essentially that everyone is a diamond (see the Pygmalion Effect and Rosenthal’s studies). The other relevant chapter is on building a giving culture by setting up “reciprocity rings,” which encourages members to share their goals and needs and then to grant one another five-minute favors. This might be done pretty easily in an advisory.
Star System (Based on relevance to critical thinking and building a supportive culture – not a general review)
✯ – Irrelevant, thus not included in this list
✯✯ – See above, (only less so)
✯✯✯- Mostly valuable, but with some material that may not be entirely relevant here
✯✯✯✯ – Very valuable and useful
✯✯✯✯✯ – This book changed my life (for the better)