Table of Contents

  • Free Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools Why is there so little teaching or discussion of climate change in classrooms?
  • Cover Story
  • Free Got Coal?

    Teaching about the most dangerous rock in America

    Authored By Bill Bigelow Students play a game promoted by the coal industrythen dig beneath the surface to look at the realities of mountaintop removal mining.
  • Coal at the Movies

    Classroom DVDs on coal and mountaintop removal mining

    Authored By Compiled by Bill Bigelow Video resources for the classroom, plus links to activist websites.
  • Science for the People

    High school students investigate community air quality

    Authored By Tony Marks-Block Ninth graders develop science literacy as they become neighborhood environmental experts and activists.
  • Features
  • Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?

    Authored By Stan Karp To build an effective movement against the top-down strategies that are ripping public education apart, we need to take a closer look at who wants reform and why.
  • Keepers of the Second Throat

    Authored By Patricia Smith When Chicago stole my mothers tongue, it also stole all her yesterdays. A poets lyric plea for teachers to nurture their students voices and stories.
  • Talking Back to the World

    Turning poetic lines into visual poetry

    Authored By Renee Watson Student poetry about what raised me is woven into graphic art.
  • Bad Signs

    Authored By Alfie Kohn What are the real messages in the inspirational slogans covering classroom walls? Plus some better alternatives.
  • Fuzzy Math

    A meditation on test scoring

    Authored By Meredith Jacks A middle school writing teacher reflects on a day spent scoring districtwide math tests.
  • Support That Can’t Support

    My induction program experience

    Authored By Elaine Engel Are peer mentoring programs bowing to the pressure to teach to the test?
  • Departments Free
  • Action News • Wisconsin Uprising

  • Good Stuff

    Authored By Herb Kohl
  • First and Second title both empty, Update me!

  • Scholastic Inc

    Authored By Bill Bigelow

Good Stuff

Spring 2011

By Herb Kohl

Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground
By Brenda S. Engel, Deborah Meier, and Beth Taylor
(Teachers College Press, 2010)

Dramatic Learning in the Primary School
By Shirley Brice Heath and Shelby Wolf
(Creative Partnerships, 2005)

The Usborne Detective’s Handbook
Illustrated by Colin King
(Usborne, 2009)

A History of the World in 100 Objects
By Neil MacGregor
(The British Museum, 2011)

I have been writing the Good Stuff column for years. It has been a pleasure to write, but fresh voices are always welcome in sustaining the life of a progressive journal. At this point I will write every other column, and other voices, other resources will enrich our work. I’m looking forward to learning from them—after all, I’m only 73.

I have wanted, through my recommendations, to suggest that, in addition to reading about education, teachers should be organic intellectuals and leaders in the formation of policy and creation of curriculum. We also should be active, not merely responsive, to what is currently happening in the world of ideas and actions and use our knowledge in the service of the communities we serve. We should enrich our struggles for social and economic justice by reading widely to learn what people beyond schools, classrooms, and the department of education think and suggest. To do this we have to constantly renew ourselves through our own explorations, inquiries, and discoveries. And we have to be translators as well—turning the sometimes abstract and complex things that we learn into practical, accessible experiences and ideas to challenge our students and ourselves.

Here are my current suggestions:

Playing for Keeps is a healthy reminder that schools should not alienate children from the childhood joy of play free from adult ambition. It is a refreshing book that can help remind the fools who run the schools that to be a child can be a wonderful, rewarding pleasure that sets the groundwork for a healthy and generous adult life.

Dramatic Learning in the Primary School, a boxed set of four short booklets, takes playground play into the classroom and shows how powerful the art of drama can be as a means of personal, social, and emotional growth for young children. It is quite special.

The Usborne Detective’s Handbook gets into the dark corners. Fully illustrated and often hilarious, it takes youngsters (and adults, too) into the world of crime investigation. It is full of activities for students; with a bit of adjustment, it can be used throughout the grades.

I am halfway through my current favorite, A History of the World in 100 Objects. This 700-page book traces 100 objects in the British Museum’s collections—dated from 9,000 B.C. to 2010—to recreate and illuminate history and human culture. It makes me wish I was in an elementary or high school classroom again—there is so much here to share, teach, and connect to the lives and histories of students. (Also available online:

And finally, in addition to reading Rethinking Schools, join with friends and take collective subscriptions to the New York Review of Books, The Nation, The Progressive, and my absolute favorite, the Times Literary Supplement, a weekly, rich resource of new books and short essays that has helped shape my reading and thinking for years.

Herbert Kohl’s most recent book is The Herb Kohl Reader.