Rethinking Schools


1001 E. Keefe Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53212 • Toll-free: 800-669-4192

Review by Linda Foster

The innovative concept of Rethinking Schools developed out of the dream of a group of Milwaukee-area teachers who had a vision not only to improve education in their own classrooms and schools, but to help shape reform throughout the public school system in the United States. Since its inception over 20 years ago, Rethinking Schools has grown into a nationally prominent publisher of educational materials, including a quarterly journal, Rethinking Schools and a number of quality publications to help students think deeply and critically about the world today.

While the primary focus of Rethinking Schools is on reforming our public schools, many of their materials could be adapted by parents who are interested in integrating a social justice, multicultural perspective into their children’s education. A sampling of books that may be of interest to parents are below.

Open Minds to Equality is a sourcebook of activities to help students understand  inequalities based on race, gender, class, age, language, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability, and religion. The activities also promote respect for diversity among children. It includes a variety of lesson styles including role plays, case studies, dilemma stories, cooperative learning activities, interviews, data analysis, and creative and expository writing. Activities are sequenced to build gradually build awareness and understanding. Has an engaging, readable format with helpful instructions.

Immigration has been a major issue in the news, yet there are few resources that help people understand the root causes of immigration. The Line Between Us explores the history of U.S.-Mexican relations and our broader economic relationship between Mexico. This excellent tome shows how to help students understand the immigrant experience and the drama of border life.

Rethinking Mathematics provides a collection of more than 30 articles showing how to weave current events and social-justice principles throughout math instruction. This is real-world math – math that helps students analyze problems as they gain essential academic skills.

Reading, Writing and Rising Up is a practical book offering essays, lesson plans, and a remarkable sampling of student writing. Poem ideas such as “Where I’m From” and “Forgiveness” invite students to reflect on their families and lives and use it as the inspiration for writing.

Rethinking Globalization is the best single-volume source to help make sense of an increasingly complicated world. Chapters filled with background information and lesson plans look at the history of colonialism, the global economy, sweatshops and child labor, and the impact on our environment.

Rethinking Columbus is filled with historical vignettes and teaching ideas that reexamine the story of Columbus from a Native American perspective. Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, called it “A marvelous compendium of history, literature, original sources, commentary… an exciting treasure for teachers, students, and the general public.”

Rethinking Schools also publishes a quarterly magazine that offers articles written by and for teachers, parents, and students emphasizing issues facing urban schools, particularly multi-racial issues. Each issue is packed with well-written articles addressing key policy issues as well as innovative teaching ideas and listings of valuable resources.

For instance, a recent cover story was “The Tougher Standards Fad Hits Home” an article discussing the “tougher standards” in homework movement that has been debated in the American educational system for over two decades. This outstanding article outlines the relevant history of the “tougher standards” movement and provides logical arguments advancing the premise that “…it might be possible to rethink the assumption that, after spending six or seven hours a day in school, children must work a second shift when they get home.”

This just a sampling of the excellent publications offered by Rethinking Schools. Their publications are reasonably priced, and remain true to the Rethinking Schools commitment to creating a humane, caring, multiracial democracy.

You can request a free catalog of all their materials by calling toll-free: 800-669-4192, or visit their website at You also might want to have your kids try the drag and drop map game at