Tuesday, October 14, 2008


by sarah marine


Taking bookselling very seriously, not in an uptight sense, but in that you seek out the highest quality of literature and share it with those around you, is what we do full-time at the Downer store. We know our customers by name, what they've read in the past and use that knowledge to recommend titles for them in the future. In turn, it isn't uncommon for someone to come in and basically have a meltdown if Stacie isn't around to tell them her opinion on a new title, it happens often that customers that have been supporting us for decades will, without fail, honestly ask every bookseller he sees what they are reading. In most cases each bookseller has their own personal book club. But it's not only these instore exchanges that keep the store alive- the vitality also comes from the collective conscious effort of every one of our booksellers to support other independent businesses in the neighborhood and Milwaukee, completely.

I've been reading some nonfiction as of late. A great friend Carl Hedman, with whom I worked last summer to establish the People's Books Co-op here in Milwaukee, has been steering me in the direction of a variety of superb pieces of work which deal with de-schooling, critical pedagogy and a variety of other educational philosophies which came to rise in the 1970's. He also informed me of his own venture with David Schwartz in establishing a free family school right here in Milwaukee some thirty years ago. I have never been a great student, I was quite the Max Fischer in my day, and these have really helped me to understand the downfalls of compulsory, competitive education and how today we should work to move away from these institutional practices toward a more personal and beneficial pedagogy aimed at creating positive student teacher relationships centered around a real education.

Here are a few of the books currently holding my attention:

Everywhere All the Time: A New Deschooling Reader edited by Matt Hern
From Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Illich, and Emma Goldman to John Taylor Gatto, John Holt, and Grace Llewellyn, Matt Hern has compiled an impressive cast of educational pioneers to aid parents, kids, and teachers in the quest for effective learning strategies.

Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood by A.S. Neill
As American education lags behind the rest of the world, this new edition is more timely than ever. The children of today face struggles far greater than any previous generation and we, as parents and teachers, must teach them now to make choices for themselves and to learn from the outcome of their decisions.

Adventures in Steiner Education by Brien Masters
This book outlines the basic structure of the journey through the Upper School in the Waldorf Steiner tradition.


jordan said...

excellent, but i am left wanting, more detail that is. give it to me!

by the way, i have to tell you about "books in your face!" - remind me to bring it up.

sarah marine said...

details? about avoiding at all costs institutionalized "learning"?

Well, I might let you be in my book club. If "books in your face!" is some kind of ironic new band youre listening to Im going to be very disappointed. If its an insult hurled at you from one of those bums that hangs outside the Brady St laundromat I will be very NOT DISAPPOINTED.

jordan said...

i need more comments to comment on, until we have an endless chain of comments that replaces the usual blog posts. the american dream.

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