Jonathan Zimmerman shares his five "best books about student activism"

August 29, 2022

Penn GSE professor Jonathan Zimmerman has put together a collection of inspiring books about student activism

"I’ve spent my adult life studying the ways that human beings imagine education, across space and time," wrote Zimmerman, a leading historian of education. "We’re all different, so we disagree — inevitably and often profoundly — about the meaning and purpose of 'school' itself. In a diverse nation, what should kids learn? And who should decide that?"

His recommendations for, a project dedicated to curating lists of the best books,  include A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America's Schools, which highlights the pivotal role of women in the fight to integrate the southern schools, and Troublemakers: Students' Rights and Racial Justice in the Long 1960s, which centers Black and Chicano students who stood up to racist curricula and unequal disciplinary policies.  

Writing about the activist and orator Mario Savio, Zimmerman asks readers to lean into the complicated topic of free speech on campus. "Savio’s story is yet another reminder about the radical roots of free speech, which is too often dismissed at contemporary universities as a conservative or even reactionary impulse. It wasn’t, and it isn’t."

This August marks the release of the second edition of Zimmerman's 2002 book Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools. The expanded edition now includes the debates over mask mandates, The 1619 Project, and critical race theory. 

Read his full list of books at