Welcome to Rice University's Common Reading program for 2010. Now in its fifth year, the Common Reading was established to welcome students to the Rice intellectual community, stimulate conversations across the campus community on pressing issues of the day, and introduce new students to the critical inquiry, scholarship and civility they will encounter -- and learn to practice -- at Rice.
This year's selection, Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America, by Jay Mathews, chronicles the creation of a successful nationwide network of public charter schools called the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). These innovative schools grew from the vision of two young men, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, after only brief exposure to the state of public education in the Houston in the mid-1990's. Determined to address the unsatisfied educational needs of their low-income, at-risk students, Levin and Feinberg observed and learned from extraordinary educators, tirelessly searched for support and funding, recruited willing students, and experimented with innovative solutions on the way to creating their own unconventional (and controversial) classroom model.
We selected Work Hard. Be Nice. not because we believe KIPP has solved the problems of public education but because we believe the story of KIPP's founding will resonate with new students. In the pages of this book are countless examples of perseverance displayed and choices made by individuals with whom our students have much in common. Less than five years after graduating from college, Levin and Feinberg had identified an issue, taken initiative, and affected meaningful change, despite a journey that was rife with obstacles. We hope new students will take note of and reflect on the lessons offered in the story of KIPP, and apply this knowledge as they join our community of leaders, lifelong learners and creative thinkers, and begin to think about how they want to conduct their lives.
Additionally, we selected Work Hard. Be Nice. because it highlights some of the issues and opportunities students will encounter when engaging with their new home, the city of Houston. Rice is enriched by its relationship with the city, and both civic engagement and community service are essential elements of a Rice education. While in Houston, we hope students will not only take advantage of its exciting and cosmopolitan offerings but also give back to the community.
The Common Reading program is the foundation of a series of exciting events throughout the fall semester, including co-volunteer activities with KIPP students, opportunities to talk with Rice alumni who teach at KIPP and other Teach for America schools, and the chance to meet and hear Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin speak when they visit campus on August 30. So, I warmly encourage students, faculty, and staff alike both to read Work Hard. Be Nice. and to participate in the conversations that this wonderful book will inspire.
Associate Dean of Undergraduates
Note: This event will also be broadcasted live on Rice Cable TV channel 13.