MICHAEL KIRST: An Uncommon Academic

by Richard K. Jung


Book review by: Daniel McMahon

Daniel McMahon's book reviews and essays have appeared in The Washington Post, Education WeekUtopian Studies, and elsewhere.

Jung's fine biography of Mike Kirst is a tour through educational policy at the federal, state, and local levels from the 1960s to the present which will help the reader understand the competing claims of academics and politicians- and to appreciate both roles.

This is an intellectual biography of ideas about educational policy told through the life of a man who stood with Lyndon Johnson and was a primary architect of the federal government's policy about education… and who worked closely with Jerry Brown when Brown was mayor and governor. We see the way that Kirst both developed ideas and allowed those ideas to be influenced by the practice of politics.

In addition to extensive interviews with luminaries such as Jerry Brown, Linda Darling Hammond, Chester Finn, and others, Jung allows Kirst's distinctive voice to shine through in several extended quotations.


If you want to know the history of our educational policy, then you cannot do better than 'Mike Kirst: An Uncommon Academic.'  — Dr. Daniel McMahon


A wonderful encapsulation of Mike's unique ability to cross boundaries and communicate with very diverse groups.  — Mike Usdan, Former President of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL)


I enjoyed Mike's story. If only the rest of us could build on what Mike has already learned.  — Thomas Hatch, Dir., National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools & Teaching, Teachers College, Columbia University


Puts a human face to the long journey of reform in education policy. Well done!  — Glen Harvey, Chief Executive Officer, WestEd


Jung has done a wonderful job bringing together and amplifying many different sources to illuminate Mike Kirst's life and impact.  — Susan Schofeld, Past Chair, Stanford University Historical Society


Compelling and insightful.  — Lee Quinby, Former Executive Director, Association of Colorado Independent Schools



All proceeds for the book will be donated to EdSource, a nonprofit organization focusing on highlighting key challenges and strategies for student success.

“I’m happy to donate my proceeds from this book to EdSource as it has distinguished itself for more than four decades as a highly respected non-profit source of education news, research, and analysis,” says Dr. Jung on his decision to donate proceeds to EdSource.