Things I Know 342 of 365: I’d assign these books to inspire thinking about philanthropy in education

My theme for philanthropy is the same approach I used with technology: to find a need and fill it.

– An Wang

A few years ago, before actually reading Paul Tough’s profile of Goeffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone, I read a blurb on the dusk jacket from Ira Glass contending that the book had taught him more about poverty than any other text.

I had a similar experience.

I recommend Tough’s Whatever It Takes. Were I designing an ED school unit around non-traditional philanthropic interventions in urban education, I’d assign it and three other texts as well.

The first is a recent series from the Washington Post profiling this history and legacy of the Dreamers, a group of Seat Pleasant, MD students adopted by two D.C.-area businessmen who pledged to pay the students’ college tuition two decades ago.

The 3-part series and it’s ancillary coverage do well to paint a picture of the program and its place within other Dreamer initiatives across the country connected to the “I Have A Dream” Foundation.

I’d also assign The Boys of Baraka, a documentary about 12 at-risk Baltimore, MD boys sent to live and attend school in Kenya as part of an experimental program. It’s as worthy of the descriptor “compelling” as anything I’ve ever watched.

The third text is Ruth Wright Hayre and Alexis Moore’s (auto)biographical book Tell Them We Are Rising. Hayre and Moore provide a historical perspective of one African American family’s experiences with schooling across 3 generations and Hayre’s legacy when she promised college tuition to 116 sixth graders from Philadelphia. For me, the book provided a portrait of the history of Philadelphia schools few people had the time or memory to bring up. I understood where I was teaching because I understood how schools changed in Philadelphia.

While these four texts don’t provide a comprehensive list, they do provide much food for thought on the roles and possibilities for third-party stakeholders in education.


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