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In her groundbreaking history of 175 years of American education, Dana Goldstein finds answers in the past to the controversies that plague our public schools today. Teaching is a wildly contentious profession in America, one attacked and admired in equal measure. In The Teacher Wars, a rich, lively, and unprecedented history of public school teaching, Dana Goldstein reveal In her groundbreaking history of 175 years of American education, Dana Goldstein finds answers in the past to the controversies that plague our public schools today. Teaching is a wildly contentious profession in America, one attacked and admired in equal measure. In The Teacher Wars, a rich, lively, and unprecedented history of public school teaching, Dana Goldstein reveals that teachers have been similarly embattled for nearly two centuries. From the genteel founding of the common schools movement in the nineteenth century to the violent inner-city teacher strikes of the 1960s and '70s, from the dispatching of Northeastern women to frontier schoolhouses to the founding of Teach for America on the Princeton University campus in 1989, Goldstein shows that the same issues have continued to bedevil us: Who should teach? What should be taught? Who should be held accountable for how our children learn?     She uncovers the surprising roots of hot button issues, from teacher tenure to charter schools, and finds that recent popular ideas to improve schools—instituting merit pay, evaluating teachers by student test scores, ranking and firing veteran teachers, and recruiting “elite” graduates to teach—are all approaches that have been tried in the past without producing widespread change. And she also discovers an emerging effort that stands a real chance of transforming our schools for the better: drawing on the best practices of the three million public school teachers we already have in order to improve learning throughout our nation’s classrooms.    The Teacher Wars upends the conversation about American education by bringing the lessons of history to bear on the dilemmas we confront today. By asking “How did we get here?” Dana Goldstein brilliantly illuminates the path forward.


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In her groundbreaking history of 175 years of American education, Dana Goldstein finds answers in the past to the controversies that plague our public schools today. Teaching is a wildly contentious profession in America, one attacked and admired in equal measure. In The Teacher Wars, a rich, lively, and unprecedented history of public school teaching, Dana Goldstein reveal In her groundbreaking history of 175 years of American education, Dana Goldstein finds answers in the past to the controversies that plague our public schools today. Teaching is a wildly contentious profession in America, one attacked and admired in equal measure. In The Teacher Wars, a rich, lively, and unprecedented history of public school teaching, Dana Goldstein reveals that teachers have been similarly embattled for nearly two centuries. From the genteel founding of the common schools movement in the nineteenth century to the violent inner-city teacher strikes of the 1960s and '70s, from the dispatching of Northeastern women to frontier schoolhouses to the founding of Teach for America on the Princeton University campus in 1989, Goldstein shows that the same issues have continued to bedevil us: Who should teach? What should be taught? Who should be held accountable for how our children learn?     She uncovers the surprising roots of hot button issues, from teacher tenure to charter schools, and finds that recent popular ideas to improve schools—instituting merit pay, evaluating teachers by student test scores, ranking and firing veteran teachers, and recruiting “elite” graduates to teach—are all approaches that have been tried in the past without producing widespread change. And she also discovers an emerging effort that stands a real chance of transforming our schools for the better: drawing on the best practices of the three million public school teachers we already have in order to improve learning throughout our nation’s classrooms.    The Teacher Wars upends the conversation about American education by bringing the lessons of history to bear on the dilemmas we confront today. By asking “How did we get here?” Dana Goldstein brilliantly illuminates the path forward.

30 review for The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is a fascinating book - it provides a history of American education and the complex role that 'being a teacher' has often involved. One of the problems with histories is that it is all too easy to see parallels - you know the old saying, those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it - but I think something else I read about history is truer than that, that history doesn't repeat, but rather rhymes. So, when you read that female teachers were encouraged into education and tha This is a fascinating book - it provides a history of American education and the complex role that 'being a teacher' has often involved. One of the problems with histories is that it is all too easy to see parallels - you know the old saying, those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it - but I think something else I read about history is truer than that, that history doesn't repeat, but rather rhymes. So, when you read that female teachers were encouraged into education and that this was partly due to them being cheaper to pay while (since they had so few other options) were also generally smarter than their male counterparts, it isn't too much of a stretch to hear rhymes with some of the problems faced in education today. It hadn't occurred to me that school teachers might be among the most unionised of all workers in the US - when you think about unionised labour, I assume 'school teachers' aren't the occupation that comes more readily to mind. However, this is also true here in Australia (80-85% unionised). What is interesting is that the level of unionisation has been something that has focused attention on teachers and been used against them. The assumption is that strong unionisation means that it is impossible to get rid of bad teachers - I worked as a union organiser for nearly 20 years, although in a different industry, but I still doubt this would be the case. Teachers love kids, they want to see them educated. The union would not have the support of the teachers in a school if they ensured truly awful teachers could not be dismissed. So, while films like 'Waiting for Superman' imply that America can sack its way to a great education system, I think this sounds more like a neoliberal wet-dream than anything with even a skerrick of merit. America is an interesting case, and not least because there is no America, but rather an infinite number of Americas depending on one's class, race, gender and where you live. The author details this when discussing the complexities of the desegregation movement and how this had a devastating impact on teachers of colour in the US, particularly in the southern states. But also documented here are the McCarthy era blacklists, the demands for patriotism and loyalty that, to be honest, I'd have thought would have been the very opposite of what a teacher ought to be teaching children - even if the teacher was extremely patriotic. The notion of education as indoctrination has always been somewhat troubling to me, being more of a 'teach them how to think' than a 'what to think' kind of guy. This book became particularly interesting at about the half-way point. It is here that we race towards the modern day and all of the problems that are 'common core', 'no child left behind', 'no excuses' education, and 'race to the top'. I'm not going to pretend that I don't see these as failed strategies that have caused more harm than good - nor that I don't think that Bill Gates has a lot to answer for in his active promotion of such ideas at the cost of public education in the US. I would say that Gates should have stuck with software, but I have read another book (Love the Work, Hate the Job) that shows he wasn't much of an employer there either. But what I hadn't realised was how reactionary Obama was when it came to education. His preference for Charter Schools and value-added assessments for teachers was the very opposite of 'evidence based' - but even so, the bit that really got under my skin was him saying "I reject a system that rewards failure" - yeah, right. He didn't seem to have any problem with giving the largest handover in history to Wall Street after it nearly brought the world economy to its knees. Don't talk to me about 'rewarding failure' - it was the signature action of his presidency. Of course, rewarding failure for very rich people is one thing, while sacking teachers is quite another, with teachers clearly being the worse to the two evils. This book is much more 'even handed' than I can bring myself to be on these topics. The importance of history is not in finding ways to avoid repeating it, but rather in understanding how things have grown as this helps us to understand why they are as they are now. This book is a relatively quick read that gives a really interesting overview of the history of the US education system.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    This book gives us a good history of how teaching evolved in the United States, in particular how women came to play a primary role in the profession. It became a career acceptable to women, but only for single women. Also, women were paid less than man, a considerable savings to those like small outlying communities, paying the salaries. Unions became involved with teachers in the early twentieth century. To some extent this led later to a downgrading of the teaching profession due to “tenure” w This book gives us a good history of how teaching evolved in the United States, in particular how women came to play a primary role in the profession. It became a career acceptable to women, but only for single women. Also, women were paid less than man, a considerable savings to those like small outlying communities, paying the salaries. Unions became involved with teachers in the early twentieth century. To some extent this led later to a downgrading of the teaching profession due to “tenure” which meant that a teacher could not be dismissed after receiving tenure after two years of teaching. There was job security in teaching which did not exist in other lines of work. As parents became more embroiled in schools and the curriculum, they came to realize that although some teachers were excellent and highly motivated, others were less so. It is now possible to fire tenured teachers. Perhaps this sounds harsh, but it is the children who pay the price for an entire school semester when a teacher is lacklustre. The author also discusses the various forms of evaluation that have changed over the years for teachers. During the First World War teachers were forced to take a loyalty oath – a good reason for union action. In the last forty years there have been multiple ways of accessing how effective teachers are – by using endless testing of students, of having motivated experienced teachers placed in the classrooms of poorly evaluated teachers, of constantly monitoring classrooms… From all these methods I would gather that the principals and vice-principals would need to devote their entire day to shuttling between classrooms to do evaluations. Or a full-staff would be required to do the auditing and then reporting on teacher performance. All this in an era of increasing budget restrictions. Page 209 (my book) Donald Campbell, educational psychologist “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” Some of the evaluations are connected to salary bonuses (or dismissals) – and then to corruption when student marks were tampered and upgraded to get bonuses and make the school look good, thus getting more funds. I felt there were aspects missing in this book. There is little discussion of money. I have long heard that teacher salaries in the United States can be very low, more so in impoverished areas which are lacking in financial resources. I remember being in the U.S. and hearing that “he/she is a teacher and needs to work at a second job to make ends meet”. I would have liked to learn more on these salary disparities and how this is affecting education. Having low salaries does little to attract potential young people to a challenging career. Also, the author cites statistics that many leave the profession within a few years – why is this? As she mentions investing and training a new teacher only to have them leave after a few years is not good investment. She speaks about charter schools, but does not define exactly what they are. Are they private schools? What kind of fees to students pay to attend? She does not talk about the encroachment of religion in the curriculum, mind you this would be a topic for an entire book. But we are given a good presentation of the constantly changing issues of the teaching profession. It’s a tough job. No doubt there are rewards, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Miles

    This book’s title might connote a tense battlefield, with ruler-brandishing teachers firmly entrenched against the remonstrations of an angry citizenry. But, like any serious student of history, author Dana Goldstein knows such simplistic images belie the messy truth about wars, which is that they are rife with broken borders, double crossings, unexpected victories, and crushing defeats. So it has been with America’s public education system. The Teacher Wars is a fascinating, much needed historic This book’s title might connote a tense battlefield, with ruler-brandishing teachers firmly entrenched against the remonstrations of an angry citizenry. But, like any serious student of history, author Dana Goldstein knows such simplistic images belie the messy truth about wars, which is that they are rife with broken borders, double crossings, unexpected victories, and crushing defeats. So it has been with America’s public education system. The Teacher Wars is a fascinating, much needed historical account of public teaching in America over the last two centuries. It contains a host of well written, nuanced narratives about important figures in American education, each of which adds a particular flavor to the nation’s complex dialogue about what public schools are for and how best to run them. Goldstein is careful not to lionize or condemn any single individual or point of view, aiming instead for a rich portrait of perspectives that eschews dichotomous or naive interpretations of educational goals and challenges. As an in-depth look at the history of the American teacher, this book is an excellent resource. Unfortunately, it fails to address the full scope of pressing problems facing today’s public schools, many of which are downplayed or omitted entirely. The most useful historical lesson here is that America’s past is peppered with precedents for today’s educational difficulties. From the very start, public educators have debated issues of teacher pay and tenure, school funding, the place of morality in curriculum, racial discrimination, vocational versus intellectual tracks, the role of parents in educating their kids, and the question of how much exhaustion and stress teachers should take on trying to teach impoverished students. Rather than the occasional flareup in bad times, moral panics about teacher quality have actually been the norm. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, ideological and political factions were constantly forming, breaking up, and reforming––each claiming to be doing what’s best for students and the nation. Goldstein’s research is a goldmine of anecdotal and statistical information about historical methods and experiments to improve schools; these often resemble the “innovative strategies” touted by contemporary education reformers. Merit pay, fastidious evaluation of teachers by administrators, test-based tracking, union busting, “alternative” parochial schools, teacher witch hunts––these have all been tried before, with varying but rarely laudable results. The Teacher Wars does an exceptional job of placing heated education debates in their proper historical context, allowing the careful reader to parse the differences between methods that have failed in the past and genuinely new attempts to bring American education fully into the 21st century. While Goldstein has provided a useful tool for understanding why we’ve come to be where we are, her discussion and evaluation of current educational crises is markedly less insightful. The book’s last few chapters contain a lot of information, most of which is dominated by jargon and statistics that don’t adequately address the underlying causes of the teacher assessment craze or the deep socioeconomic divide today’s teachers must desperately combat. Given the general challenge of figuring out what to keep and what to cut in telling any historical narrative, it’s fair to assume Goldstein erred on the side of a tight focus on teachers in particular. But there are many external factors that directly affect the ability of teachers to do their jobs, and The Teacher Wars does a paltry job of mapping them out. There is no mention of how technology is changing the nature of teaching or the expectations of students, little discussion of across the board cutting of music and arts programs in favor of a “college for everyone” model, no candid discussion about the motivational distinctions between private and public schools, zero information about vocational training and technological unemployment, and far less attention to poverty than is necessary given the crucial and proven relationship between educational outcomes and socioeconomic factors. In general, Goldstein neglects the complex relationship between publicly-funded education and the democratic way of life––the only context in which having a public education system makes any sense. At 276 pages, Goldstein’s book is not so sprawling as to justify cutting an additional chapter or two to take up some of these issues and explain how they relate to the future of the teaching profession. Anyone who is a teacher or who has regular contact with the teaching community knows that we can’t have a full and inclusive discussion about improving American education without assuming a broad view that takes the above issues into account. These critiques would be less germane if Goldstein had not included an epilogue in which she makes explicit recommendations about how schools should treat and support teachers in the future. Her suggestions, while generally insightful and practical, fall somewhat flat because they are not situated within the greater scope of public education’s place in American democracy. As a historian, Goldstein does an admirable job; she is less effective as a cultural critic and purveyor of workable solutions. All of this is not to say Goldstein hasn’t made an important contribution to our understanding of what teaching in America has meant, means today, and will mean in the future. Her final message––that bottom-up solutions fueled by teacher collaboration are preferable to and more effective than top-down government policies––is poignantly articulated and deeply resonant with people who want to see schools solve problems with local resources rather than external ones. While bad teachers do exist and ought to be supported or occasionally driven out of the profession, Goldstein is right to remind us that the typical veteran teacher is a vast repository of educational experience and wisdom, one that current systems leave largely untapped. In 1916, Chicago public schools superintendent and teacher advocate Ella Flagg Young declared that “Some day the system will be such that the child and teacher will go to school with ecstatic joy. At home in the evening, the child will talk about the things done during the day and will talk with pride. I want to makes the schools the great instrument of democracy” (85). A century later, this statement makes Young seem equal parts prophet and naive idealist. There’s little doubt that many children come home from school in exactly this fashion, and less doubt that plenty more do not, and perhaps never will. The Teacher Wars reminds us that to move forward, we must occasionally look back and trace our tracks. That is how we continue to hone this intricate, obstinate, and ultimately invaluable “instrument of democracy.” This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession by historian Dana Goldsteinis a balanced, thoughtful account of the history of teachers in the United States. Goldstein traces how the profession of teaching has been the subject of controversy from the early 1800's, with its deliberate "feminization" (based on the idea that women were a) more spiritual and better nurturers and b) it would cost much less money to hire women) through a long history of teacher pay as well as the on The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession by historian Dana Goldsteinis a balanced, thoughtful account of the history of teachers in the United States. Goldstein traces how the profession of teaching has been the subject of controversy from the early 1800's, with its deliberate "feminization" (based on the idea that women were a) more spiritual and better nurturers and b) it would cost much less money to hire women) through a long history of teacher pay as well as the ongoing struggle about how to evaluate teachers. It was fascinating to read the history of education reform and see how far back the roots of today's reform movement go. The subject of tenure is covered in detail: both how it can be abused and how important it has been to protect teachers from administrative whims and political climate. The interplay between politics, economy, and teaching is also examined. As a teacher, I was mesmerized by the book. I think it is essential for anyone interested in today's education reform movement, teaching, as well as the women's movement throughout the last two centuries. The book is well-written and complex issues are presented clearly. There are many footnotes but they do not intrude upon the text and there is an excellent bibliography provided. Strongly recommended.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    It's definitely a book worth reading that can simultaneously enrage, engage and entertain you. The Teacher Wars tells the story of why America's teachers are so roundly despised and used as a punching bag by the political elites and power systems. Completely fascinating and non-partisan as far as I can tell, this history should be read by anyone who ever had anything to say about the quality of teachers these days, which is a group that includes, roughly, everyone. I myself was hooked by page 9, It's definitely a book worth reading that can simultaneously enrage, engage and entertain you. The Teacher Wars tells the story of why America's teachers are so roundly despised and used as a punching bag by the political elites and power systems. Completely fascinating and non-partisan as far as I can tell, this history should be read by anyone who ever had anything to say about the quality of teachers these days, which is a group that includes, roughly, everyone. I myself was hooked by page 9, which I read, as it happens, during the twenty minutes I allow myself for lunch, at my desk, while getting ready to do some last-minute grading so I could make a meeting with a colleague so as to plan our joint lessons for the next week: "...(Places like Shanghai) have made big strides in student achievement without drastically adjusting the demographics of who becomes a teacher. They do it by reshaping teachers' working days so they spend less time alone in front of kids and more time planning lessons and observing other teachers at work, sharing best practices in pedagogy and classroom management." Yeah, I could get behind something like that. Can't imagine why it resonated with me so deeply. In a nutshell, education journalist Dana Goldstein explains how the public school teacher ethos morphed and mutated over the past two centuries, got mixed up in the labor movement and a bunch of other clashes between warring factions, was put right in the middle of a bull's eye for America's power systems to start shooting at, and is now sort of the scapegoat (not always incorrectly) for many of society's ills. If that's too brief a nutshell, here's a slightly less-condensed summary: early in the 19th century, reformers like Catharine Beecher "feminized" teaching (then more a male profession) by hijacking the missionary zeal nascent in urban women: "Go west and make a difference! Teach pioneer children and be one with God!" After the Civil War, black educators got caught up in a battle over whether black children should be educated vocationally, in order to work and excel in a world that afforded them fewer opportunities, or educated classically and by elites, in order not to neglect their potential. In many ways, this debate continues today, and not just concerning minorities. Then the teachers' unions split with the extreme left during the McCarthy era and joined with the working class unions engaged in their own war against the corporate elite. Unfortunately, when the Reaganites took power, the working class saw their benefits and power decline, even as the teachers' unions kept theirs, and a schism emerged (again--one still with us today), creating understandable resentment with the working class (today, maybe 7 percent of the nation's workers are unionized). On the heels of Reagan came the "teacher accountability movement," ostensibly a product of progressivism but increasingly tied to corporate interests via the language and premises of free market enthusiasts. (Goldstein doesn't put it like that--that's more my own reading of the history. But I'll stand by it.) Now, with many of the experiments of the blame-teachers-first crowd having come up empty-handed as their reforms didn't turn out to be silver bullets after all, America is in a position to rethink what's to be done about the state of our schools. Yet Goldstein argues that certain other movements have born useful fruit: she runs through some data concerning Teach for America and speaks highly of their "transformative" approach (though she does not believe, accurately, it can be replicated on a larger scale). She also reports that value-added measurements (attempting to link test score gains to individual teachers), while nonsensical in high-stakes conditions, work well as a tool to help educators develop and improve their instruction. Fair enough. It's a fascinating story, even to those who know the basics already (I flatter myself to be one of them). Her reporting is objective and fact-based yet still leading her to inescapable conclusions about how teachers have been demonized, why this has happened and what's to be done about it all. At the end of the book, she trots out some not unreasonable suggestions: knock standardized tests back to tools of diagnosis; beef up our oversight of administration (Goldstein outlined these ideas in a recent Chicago Tribune piece); give teachers more active roles in the formation of school curriculum and training; free up time for collaboration. She also argues we need to ditch the last-in-first-out power that tenured teachers wield, though, she is careful to point out, not without employing a system of remediation and assistance using reliable measurements, so as to protect them from the whims of administration and school boards. Sounds good. And yet, running through these suggestions, one can't help but notice we're talking about quite a price tag. One, I suspect, taxpayers would be happy to pay (as I write this, the nation is gearing up for another military adventure in Iraq, and I don't hear the budget hawks screaming yet), particularly if we were to differentiate between the kind of spending we've been doing and the kind of spending we should be doing. Yet such fiscal transformation is unlikely today, and perhaps for many years to come. Neither is it likely that the social spending necessary for an empowered middle and lower class will come about any time soon. Goldstein freely acknowledges this, and ends with the whole let's-focus-on-what-we-can-focus-on spiel that TFA, unions and the like rely on when confronted with the task of changing the system without being able to actually change the system: "In the absence of these "bridging instruments" between policy and practice, I fear American politics will continue to reflect profound disappointment in teachers, and teachers themselves will continue to feel embattled. But there is hope. If we accept the limitations of our decentralized political system, we can move toward a future in which sustainable and transformative education reforms are seeded from the ground up, not imposed from the top down. They will be built more upon the expertise of the best teachers than on our fears of the worst teachers. This is how we will achieve an end to the teacher wars." It's lines like these, in all their reasonableness and logic, that get me reaching for my emergency whiskey bottle. Yes, if teachers are the ones "seeding" this kind of change, I'd be all for it. But the Wendy Kopps and Michelle Rhees, the Bill Gateses and Eva Moskowitzes and now, apparently, M. Night Shyamalans of the world are just too well-funded. No matter their intentions, the damage they're doing to the greater narrative is too lasting to ensure that the notion of public education is linked to notions of community and macrosocioeconomic factors. Well, at least we've got a solid history to point to in order to justify such a perspective. Though I hope I'm wrong, I think we're going to need it for the foreseeable future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jill Adams

    This is a dense text--I had to chunk the reading by chapter and will likely read it again in the future to make sure I fully grasped all of the information being presented. I loved the information presented and the connections that could therefore be made throughout history. Additionally, I appreciated the recommendations she offered at the end about the lessons from history: Teacher pay matters, create communities of practice, keep teaching interesting, deal with the legacy of the normal school This is a dense text--I had to chunk the reading by chapter and will likely read it again in the future to make sure I fully grasped all of the information being presented. I loved the information presented and the connections that could therefore be made throughout history. Additionally, I appreciated the recommendations she offered at the end about the lessons from history: Teacher pay matters, create communities of practice, keep teaching interesting, deal with the legacy of the normal school, focus on the principal as much as the teacher, return tests to their rightful role as diagnostic tools, teachers benefit from watching each other work, recruit more men and people of color, end outdated union protections, and be real about the limitations of our system. I don't like thinking of teaching in war-like terms, but there do seem to have key battles (right word?) that have been a bit of our educational history in this country (some of which are going on right now regarding standardized tests and teacher evaluation). Definitely worth checking out when you have time to contemplate and digest.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Steve Moore

    Offers a nuanced picture of the political, cultural, and professional battles involving educators. It's doesn't offer apology, unfair excoriation, or undue praise to any group. It provides diligent critique, analysis, and historical context for the ongoing "wars" in education policy and practice. Very interesting and helpful read for all sorts. Offers a nuanced picture of the political, cultural, and professional battles involving educators. It's doesn't offer apology, unfair excoriation, or undue praise to any group. It provides diligent critique, analysis, and historical context for the ongoing "wars" in education policy and practice. Very interesting and helpful read for all sorts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    On a daily basis I read articles about state standards, standardized testing, poor teacher training programs and, of course, tenure as culprits behind the declining value of education in the US, which itself may be more hyperbole than legitimate diagnosis. While tenure reform is likely a reactionary code word for union busting and liberal media are marginally more pro-teacher, all of the media's attention, discussion and analysis obscure one crucial fact: most teachers are passionate, dedicated, On a daily basis I read articles about state standards, standardized testing, poor teacher training programs and, of course, tenure as culprits behind the declining value of education in the US, which itself may be more hyperbole than legitimate diagnosis. While tenure reform is likely a reactionary code word for union busting and liberal media are marginally more pro-teacher, all of the media's attention, discussion and analysis obscure one crucial fact: most teachers are passionate, dedicated, and well-trained professionals. As a teacher and onetime journalism undergraduate, I have a knee-jerk reaction to journalists discussing the state of education in the US. It’s not enough that media have oversimplified politics and turned it all into the equivalent of an overhyped sports rivalry--less about issues than about a sense of group identity. The thought of my profession being similarly reduced to talking points for ill-informed cable news watchers is horrifying. According to Goldstein's book, there's nothing particularly new about this scrutiny of education. Historically, education has been attacked as a vocation unsuitable for all but unmarried, unemployable women, as a dangerous catalyst for insurrection among minorities, as indoctrination into godlessness and vice and today as a broken system where ineffective teachers are beholden to no one due to protection by tenure and labor unions. The book is lengthy and well researched, but it occasionally belabors its points for far too long before moving on to the next historical era and teacher-related conflict. Also, Goldstein occasionally conflates degrees from elite universities with teacher aptitude, which is odd since she strives for a more populist stance throughout. I assume she means that people trained in specific academic fields (Master/Bachelor of Arts or Science) might be preferable to people with primarily pedagogy training (Master/Bachelor of Education), which is debatable, but it still seems like she is devaluing perfectly good state universities in her attempt to critique historical "normal schools" for teacher training. Still, it's a book worth reading for both teachers to get some perspective on recent attacks against their professions (from the Michelle Rhees of the world) and for the average novice who bafflingly feels that he knows more about how education should work than trained educators do. Sure much needs to be done to fix problems in schools--problems that almost uniformly relate to poverty rather than other external factors--but, as this book illustrates, idealistic and politically-motivated curriculum reformers are undoubtedly not the answer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jgrace

    The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession- Dana Goldstein 4 stars The subtitle of this book grabbed my interest immediately. I’ve been a frontline soldier in the public education wars. I wanted to hear what Goldstein had to say about it. The book is a true history of American education, beginning with Chapter One, “Missionary Teachers” of the 19th century. The following chapters detail the growth of public education, the rise teacher’s unions, and the pendulum swing of The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession- Dana Goldstein 4 stars The subtitle of this book grabbed my interest immediately. I’ve been a frontline soldier in the public education wars. I wanted to hear what Goldstein had to say about it. The book is a true history of American education, beginning with Chapter One, “Missionary Teachers” of the 19th century. The following chapters detail the growth of public education, the rise teacher’s unions, and the pendulum swing of educational methodology and practice through the 20th century to the present day. Goldstein maintains her historical perspective throughout. She connects the practice, funding, and politics of education to the political and social climate of each decade. She tracks the development of policies, their success and failures, while pointing to the way the same issues remain or resurface again and again. Much of this history of education was naturally familiar to me. I experienced it as a child; I worked with it as an adult. I was very interested in how the growth of public education in the 19th century paralleled the growth of the suffrage movement. I find it fascinating that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had opinions about female educators that continue to be issues today. Goldstein also pointed to differences in educational philosophies among black leaders of the restoration and the early 20th century. (Historically, there’s much, much, more to be said about minority education than Brown vs the Board of Education.) With each decade, Goldstein highlighted the most prominent voices, the largest conflicts, and the greatest successes of our educational system. It was thoroughly researched and well provided with references and footnotes. In the later chapters she included quotes from interviews with some of the soldiers on the front. She did a good job establishing an historical timeline of a huge subject, while staying reasonably objective throughout. Overall, I think this book was mostly, although not invariably, pro-teacher. I found it validating. Goldstein provided the larger context for the very things that caused me to leave teaching. Her last chapter, “Lessons From History for Improving Teaching Today”, has eleven practical, research based suggestions. But, do we ever really learn from history ?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rina

    I highly recommend this book to all teachers. Public eduction is under attack, especially in urban areas. Politicians think they can use teacher evaluations to improve public education while ignoring the real problems of class size and funding. This book does an excellent job showing that teachers, overall, have been disrespected from the beginning of public education because of gender discrimation and prejudice against many differnt races and ethinicities.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sean Kottke

    Must-read for all education policymakers and stakeholders, and an essential companion to Hess' The Same Thing Over and Over. It makes common cause with many of the recommendations from Building a Better Teacher, although it lays out its case with a longer historical lens. Midway between absolute autonomy and rigid accountability lies professionalism. Must-read for all education policymakers and stakeholders, and an essential companion to Hess' The Same Thing Over and Over. It makes common cause with many of the recommendations from Building a Better Teacher, although it lays out its case with a longer historical lens. Midway between absolute autonomy and rigid accountability lies professionalism.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cortney

    A lot of good background on some of the ailments our education system is dealing with today. One of the book's most redeeming qualities is its overall balance across the board: it offers data and anecdotes without much interpretation until the brief epilogue. Well worth reading if you are concerned at all about our education system and the current policies for reform. A lot of good background on some of the ailments our education system is dealing with today. One of the book's most redeeming qualities is its overall balance across the board: it offers data and anecdotes without much interpretation until the brief epilogue. Well worth reading if you are concerned at all about our education system and the current policies for reform.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Jespers

    More than any book I’ve read recently, this one is full of what I call “nuggets”—tidbits of information that are so astounding, so stupefying, in their obviousness that they’ve flown under the radar for decades or even centuries of education in this country without due notice. Or else, as I suspect may be true of national, state, and local persons in control of educational funding, most people (legislators) who could help DON’T CARE. [I use the term “loc” to indicate the place in my Kindle where More than any book I’ve read recently, this one is full of what I call “nuggets”—tidbits of information that are so astounding, so stupefying, in their obviousness that they’ve flown under the radar for decades or even centuries of education in this country without due notice. Or else, as I suspect may be true of national, state, and local persons in control of educational funding, most people (legislators) who could help DON’T CARE. [I use the term “loc” to indicate the place in my Kindle where one might find this citation; unfortunately, on this particular book, the publisher does not also indicate the page number from the hardcover edition.] Introduction “After all, one-fifth of all American children were growing up poor—twice the child poverty rate of England or South Korea” (loc 88). Yikes! “Why are American teachers both resented and idealized, when teachers in other nations are much more universally respected?” (loc 96). Why, indeed? “Henry David Thoreau, Susan B. Anthony, W. E. B. DuBois, and Lyndon B. Johnson are just a few of the famous Americans who taught. They resisted the fantasy of educators as saints or saviors, and understood teaching as a job in which the potential for children’s intellectual transcendence and social mobility, though always present, is limited by real-world concerns such as poor training, low pay, inadequate supplies, inept administration, and impoverished students and families. These teachers’ stories, and those of less well-known teachers, propel this history forward and help us understand why American teaching has evolved into such a peculiar profession, one attacked and admired in equal proportion.” (loc 116-9). We’re all in good company! “ . . . even the highest-poverty neighborhood schools in cities like New York and Los Angeles employ teachers who produce among the biggest test score gains in their regions. What’s more, veteran teachers who work long-term in high-poverty schools with low test scores are actually more effective at raising student achievement than is the rotating cast of inexperienced teachers who try these jobs out but flee after one to three years” (loc 134). Clears up a certain myth. “Even we set aside the nearly 50 percent of all beginner teachers who choose to leave the profession within five years—and ignore the evidence that those who leave are worse performers than those who stay—it is unclear whether teachers are formally terminated for poor performance any less frequently than are other workers” (loc 155). “But teaching employs roughly five times as many people as either medicine or law. There are 3.3 million American public school teachers, compared to 691,000 doctors and 728,000 attorneys. Four percent of all civil workers are teachers” (loc 166-7). Quite a statistic. “We must focus less on how to rank and fire teachers and more on how to make day-to-day teaching an attractive, challenging job that intelligent, creative, and ambitious people will gravitate toward” (loc 218). Hear hear! “Advocates for universal public education called common schoolers, were challenged by antitax activists. The détente between these two groups redefined American teaching as low-paid (or even volunteer) missionary work for women, a reality we have lived with for two centuries—as children of slaves and immigrants flooded into the classroom, as we struggled with and then gave up on desegregating our schools, and as we began, in the late twentieth century, to confront a future in which young Americans without college degrees were increasingly disadvantaged in the labor market and those relied on schools and teachers, more than ever before, to help them access a middle-class life” (loc 222-7). This missionary philosophy couldn’t be truer than in the state of Texas. Chapter One: “Missionary Teachers”: The Common Schools Movement and the Feminization of American Teaching Educator Catherine Beecher said: “[A] woman needs support only for herself” while “a man requires support for himself and a family,” she wrote, appealing to the stereotype that women with families did not do wage-earning work—a false assumption even in the early nineteenth century, when many working-class wives and mothers labored on family farms or took in laundry and sewing to make ends meet. Black women almost universally worked, whether as slaves in the South or as domestic servant or laundresses in the North. What was truly new about Beecher’s conception of teaching was that it pushed middle-class white women, in particular, into public view as workers outside the home” (loc 375-7). Chapter Two: “Repressed Indignation”: The Feminist Challenge to American Education “In 1850, four-fifths of New York’s eleven thousand teachers were women, yet two-thirds of the state’s $800,000 in teacher salaries was paid to men. It was not unusual for male teachers to earn twice as much as their female coworkers” (loc 613). [Goldstein uses the word “snuck” instead of “sneaked,” the past participle of the word sneak (loc 753). “Snuck” is largely slang. In the context of writing that is speaking of education, the author should use the more formal word, “sneaked.”] Chapter Three: “No Shirking, No Skulking”: Black Teachers and Racial Uplift After the Civil War “The federal government had acknowledged that the education of former slaves should be one of the major goals of Reconstruction, but Congress never appropriated adequate funding for the task, nor did it compel states to do so” (loc 906). What’s new? Chapter Four: “School Ma’ams as Lobbyists”: The Birth of Teachers Unions and the battle Between Progressive Pedagogy and School Efficiency “A study by education researcher William Lancelot explained how administrators could record a ‘pupil change’ score for every teacher by testing how much the teachers’ students knew on a given subject at the beginning and then the end of a term. (Today this calculation is called a teacher’s ‘value-added’ score.)” According to peer reviewer Helen Walker—as well as many of today’s critics of value added—the pupil change measurement ultimately had a ‘low relationship’ to true teacher quality, since so many factors beyond a teacher’s control could affect a student’s test score, from class size to family involvement in education” (loc 1457). Value-added: a fancy term for such a deadly practice! Chapter Six: “The Only Valid Passport from Poverty”: The Great Expectations of Great Society Teachers “What Coleman’s research really revealed was that compared to white students, the average black child was enrolled in a poorly funded school with less qualified teachers and fewer science and foreign language classes. Those black students who attended integrated, well-resourced schools, however, tended to earn higher test scores than black students in segregated schools, and reported feeling a greater sense of control over their lives” (loc 2014-6). Chapter Eight: “Very Disillusioned”: How Teacher Accountability Displaced Desegregation and Local Control “In Japan the average teacher earned as much as the average engineer; in the United States, teachers earned only 60 percent as much as engineer” (loc 2882). Tokyo, anyone? Chapter Ten: “Let Me Use What I Know”: Reforming Education by Empowering Teachers “When many teachers resign each year, institutional memory is lost, and ties to the community weaken. There are fewer veterans around to show newbies the tricks of the trade” (loc 4205). Makes sense, doesn’t it? “But the latest research shows schools simply do not have an unlimited capacity to absorb and train first-year teachers, and that students suffer when they are assigned to a string of novice teachers in grade after grade” (loc 4213). Epilogue: “Lessons from History for Improving for Improving Teaching Today “Since these schools are now producing a huge oversupply of prospective elementary school teachers—in some states, as many as nine times more prospective teachers than there are jobs—states ought to require these institutions to raise their standards for admission or to shut down their teacher prep programs” (loc 4471). I could go on citing nugget after nugget of truth, things that to me, as a former teacher, are so OBVIOUS, but to the general public, even educated people, might not be quite so apparent. I urge anyone unsure about the history of public school teachers in this country to read this book by Dana Goldstein. It is worth its weight in value-added teaching.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Preethi Krishnan

    NOTE: This is not a review. This is more of a note-keeping exercise for me! Because the book had a lot of rich details that I was not aware of. The Teacher Wars provides a history of 175 years of American public school teaching, informing the reader of the myriad issues that concern public education - racial inequality, teacher tenure, and privatization of education, including charter schools. The book also introduces several debates that have come to dominate public imagination even today - t NOTE: This is not a review. This is more of a note-keeping exercise for me! Because the book had a lot of rich details that I was not aware of. The Teacher Wars provides a history of 175 years of American public school teaching, informing the reader of the myriad issues that concern public education - racial inequality, teacher tenure, and privatization of education, including charter schools. The book also introduces several debates that have come to dominate public imagination even today - teacher evaluations based on student test scores, ranking and firing of teachers, and the recent phenomenon of recruiting graduates to teach, most commonly known as Teach for America . The more you learn about history, the more you realize that little has changed. If you have been told that the bane of public education is bad teachers, this book will show you how various neoliberal ideologues have helped establish that narrative in contemporary American society. Let me start with what I loved about this book. The best thing about this book is this: Page after page, I found Dana Goldstein paying homage to the leadership of amazing women, especially Black women as they worked towards making public education available to the poor and disadvantaged. In late 19th century, women were also paid less than men for the same teaching jobs. Women like Catherine Beecher, Belva Lockwood, Susan Anthony raised the issue of equal wages for women, in a profession that would soon become feminized. In a footnote, Goldstein notes how the pejorative comments about women's inherent capabilities in 1869 are comparable to the comments made by Larry Summers about women's intrinsic aptitude in 2005. If white women were discriminated against, men and women from African American communities had even greater barriers. I was thrilled to read about the many marvelous African American women who led the fight for public education such as Charlotte Forten and Anna Cooper. Charlotte Forten, the first black teacher in the Salem public schools, tried to alleviate her students' memory of slavery with racial pride, even as she suffered from the constant threat of Confederate invasion. Anna Cooper's "black feminism idealized teachers as leaders in the fight for racial and social equality." (p.64). For many Black men and women, (such as Booker T Washington), education after emancipation was an exhausting but enriching time, as they worked toward helping their communities disadvantaged by poverty, racial segregation, underpaid jobs, and lowered academic expectations for children of color. Goldstein also refers to studies that demonstrate that white teachers had lower expectations from children of color which contributed to worser academic achievement among them. As a history of public education, Goldstein also introduces us to various thinkers and their pedagogical approaches. Debates between WEB Dubois and Booker Washington as educational theorists was interesting to read. Their major disagreement was on emphasis:Washington believed in creating basic educational opportunities for the masses while Dubois also wanted to focus on higher education for a smaller number of brilliant African Americans. Another disagreement was on teacher training. Dubois argued that black teachers must be experts in content rather than focus on pedagogical training. Washington focused on pedagogical training, more so, to appease racist philanthropists, who undermined black people's ability to absorb rigorous curriculum. After his experience in a small school, Du Bois alludes to the limitations of an educational system to help children move past the shackles of a stratified society. He would write in an Atlantic essay, that though black children craved for knowledge, "their weak wings beat against their barriers; - barriers of caste, of youth, of life." Much later, sociologist James Coleman's path-breaking report on "Equality of Educational Opportunity" would attribute 2/3rds of the academic achievement gap between black and white children to family poverty and segregation. His research revealed that "compared to white students, the average black child, was enrolled in a poorly funded school with less qualified teachers...Those black students who attended integrated, well-resourced schools, however, tended to earn higher test scores than black students in segregated schools..." (p. 121). Coleman also writes something that has meant a lot to me personally as a teacher, "one very fine textbook or, better, one very able teacher, may mean far more to a deprived child than to one who already has several of both." Teachers matter and they matter most to the most disadvantaged children. A history of public education in America is also a history of teachers' unions and their consistent fight for better wages, and autonomy in lesson planning. Through this history, Goldstein asks an uncomfortable question "Could unionized teachers simultaneously fight for their own interests as workers and for the educational interests of the city's children? Or were those two priorities at odd?" Reformers beginning from 1902 began to tie teacher tenure, promotion, raises, and even their job security on test scores. The unions have fought these moves but not to much effect. The unions advocate peer review processes for teacher evaluations. The reformers were also aggressive in repressing unions. In some cases, they dismissed teachers for their alleged ties to communism. In other cases, teachers were targeted/dismissed for not pledging allegiance to the war. I felt anxious even reading about the aggressive nature of teacher evaluation that reminded me of corporations that use performance evaluations to fire underperformers without any empathy. Throughout the book, Goldstein offers several studies that demonstrate that these kinds of evaluations did not contribute to children's academic achievements. Why then were politician after politician, including Cory Booker and Barack Obama arguing for performance-based pay for teachers and charter schools? Money and support also flowed from corporate giants such as Bill Gates who believed in measuring performance. The rhetoric on teacher performance has now dominated public imagination as the predominant solution for fixing American education. Contributing to this rhetoric was the new phenomenon Teach for America , which suggest that teachers are the problems. Therefore, they would train young motivated graduates to teach better. They had some growing pains and improved their teaching training over time. However, the bigger problem for me was their model itself. TFA is based on funding from corporate philanthropists rather than from the state. Goldstein does not spend too much time on this, but I believe this model may have contributed significantly to the increasing influence of the wealthy in educational policy. Even though Goldstein is critical of TFA, she is fairly mild. She says that TFA phenomenon has resulted in several research studies that can inform us about the state of education. The disproportionate emphasis on test scores for teacher evaluation is a big part of the book. The book has a lot of details about irrational evaluation metrics, which were sometimes misused by school administrators to target teachers who disagreed with them politically. One of my favorite story is that of Alex Caputo-Pearl, who along with some veteran teachers took over Crenshaw High in LA, a public school to create a novel plan called "Extended Learning Cultural Model." This model emphasized neighborhood problem solving as part of their curriculum, whether it was math, science or literature. It was explicitly political, encouraging students to think about "social forces shaping their lives and to work actively to improve their low-income neighborhoods", a sharp contrast to "technocratic, centrist, character of the contemporary school accountability movement." (p.259). Long story short, the social justice model was shut down and several teachers were laid off. Caputo-Pearl was dismissed. In LA, 21 of 33 laid off teachers were black and 27 had over 10 years of experience. The lay off was based on low test scores even though studies show that the constant turn over of teachers make school districts unstable. Caputo- Pearl is now the President of the LA teachers' union. In her epilogue, Goldstein offers some recommendations, - higher teacher pay, creating communities of practice, keeping teaching interesting, deal with the legacy of normal school that provide most of the teachers, focus on the principal, use test scores primarily as diagnostic tools, encourage peer review, recruit more men and people of color, and end outdated union protections. I am not sure I agree with all of them. However, I do agree with a few sentences in the last paragraph of the book - "Lastly, and perhaps more importantly - we consistently expect teachers and schools to close achievement gaps and panic when they fail to do so. But we do not provide families with the full range of social supports children need to thrive academically, including living-wage employment and stable and affordable child care, housing, higher education, and vocational training, in addition to decent nutrition and health care." Teachers matter, but the difference they make is in-spite of the larger structural issues that plague our society. Highly recommended. Don't miss it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    M.

    The Teacher Wars begins with a history of the teaching profession in America as it has evolved from the early 19th century to the present. Goldstein is a journalist, not an academic, and this part of the book, while interesting, has the serviceable feel of homework well done. When Goldstein tries to tie this history to the current state of the profession, she isn't terribly successful. What a reader takes away from this (surprise!) is that teaching has always been a relatively low status profess The Teacher Wars begins with a history of the teaching profession in America as it has evolved from the early 19th century to the present. Goldstein is a journalist, not an academic, and this part of the book, while interesting, has the serviceable feel of homework well done. When Goldstein tries to tie this history to the current state of the profession, she isn't terribly successful. What a reader takes away from this (surprise!) is that teaching has always been a relatively low status profession. Much of the book focuses on the last fifty years or so. And the impression one gets here, quite accurately, is of constant turmoil. Big ideas come and big ideas go----and the quality of student performance continues to decline. Goldstein quite sensibly comes to the conclusion that big top down reforms seldom work and that much more time and money needs to be directed towards the improvement of the professional education of teachers, towards useful evaluations of teachers that are not simply tied to test results, and towards the development of diverse models of teaching. The problem with the book is that there are many stories, but not enough analysis. Elementary and secondary education are very different, but Goldstein seldom makes a distinction between them. She talks a lot about the Common Core, but never really explains what it is (and isn't) for a reader who is not an educator. She makes some mention of the fact that many teachers are unprepared to teach reading, but doesn't give this critical topic much attention, although one might argue that the haphazard way reading is taught lies at the heart of poor test results. But that's another book. M. Feldman

  16. 4 out of 5

    Roshni Sahoo

    This is a very dense book on the history of public education in the US (lots of names, lots of examples, lots of anecdotes)! Public education in the US has a very long and very messy history, so this was a slow but informative read. Goldstein captures the relationship between education policy/teaching and the political atmosphere (the chapters on de-segregation and re-segregation were very interesting and sad). Two interesting points. 1. Many politicians (including Obama) point to "bad teachers" ( This is a very dense book on the history of public education in the US (lots of names, lots of examples, lots of anecdotes)! Public education in the US has a very long and very messy history, so this was a slow but informative read. Goldstein captures the relationship between education policy/teaching and the political atmosphere (the chapters on de-segregation and re-segregation were very interesting and sad). Two interesting points. 1. Many politicians (including Obama) point to "bad teachers" (lazy, unmotivated teachers) as the problem with public education. This perspective has led to firing veteran teachers, merit pay (paying teachers based on how well they do on exams), and the popularization of programs like Teach for America (to encourage high-achievers from elite colleges to teach for two years). The relative lack of success of these programs suggests that teacher motivation may not be the issue. Goldstein argues that new teachers may not know practical strategies for effective teaching. Having teachers work together, train, and observe each other may be a solution. 2. Goldstein notes that the education system in the US is extremely decentralized, so top-down reforms (while being well-intentioned) are rarely implemented in a consistent way. Instead, turning to teachers to create local strategies may be a better option. A super cool example is the Crenshaw High School where the teachers overhauled the standard curriculum and redesigned it around solving problems in the neighborhood where the students lived.

  17. 4 out of 5

    victor harris

    Highly recommended for anyone in the pedagogical profession or those interested in the evolution of education in America. An excellent analysis of how labor unions and tenure evolved to be staples of the educational environment. Despite all the clamor about the downside of unions and tenure, the alternatives were and are worse. They were instituted to protect teachers (mostly women initially) from tyrannical administrators and school boards who were committed to maintaining low wages and freque Highly recommended for anyone in the pedagogical profession or those interested in the evolution of education in America. An excellent analysis of how labor unions and tenure evolved to be staples of the educational environment. Despite all the clamor about the downside of unions and tenure, the alternatives were and are worse. They were instituted to protect teachers (mostly women initially) from tyrannical administrators and school boards who were committed to maintaining low wages and frequently articulated their positions with distinct sexist overtones. The hot button issues of reform projects are also addressed in detail. It will come as no surprise to anyone associated with education that recent versions of No Child Left Behind and Common Core are just more examples of edu-crats and edu-theorists continually trying to reinvent the wheel. Usually will poor results. Comparable to some of Diane Ravtitch's work in education history, this is one of the best books I have read on the topic.

  18. 5 out of 5

    nicolle jennelle

    This book confirmed a lot of my suspicions of deep-rooted American issues in education as well as shed light on some complicated reforms like community control. As a Teach For America alum who's taught in 3 cities including charter, Catholic and Montessori schools, this book was insightful to the persistent struggles in education at every level today. American Education is indeed a battlefield but now I see the evolution of the fight. I do feel hope that by listening to teachers, integrating sch This book confirmed a lot of my suspicions of deep-rooted American issues in education as well as shed light on some complicated reforms like community control. As a Teach For America alum who's taught in 3 cities including charter, Catholic and Montessori schools, this book was insightful to the persistent struggles in education at every level today. American Education is indeed a battlefield but now I see the evolution of the fight. I do feel hope that by listening to teachers, integrating schools, diversifying the force and increasing pay we can reform our system to provide an education designed to promote the dismantling of oppression.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved this smart and well written look into the history of teaching. I have a ton of notes on this that I don't have time to write here, but I highly suggest anyone who is interested in the theory and history of education read this book. I have heard that some find it a little academic, but I found that the author made it very approachable. The biggest take away that I found was that the issues we face today are little different than the same discussions and problems that have been around for I loved this smart and well written look into the history of teaching. I have a ton of notes on this that I don't have time to write here, but I highly suggest anyone who is interested in the theory and history of education read this book. I have heard that some find it a little academic, but I found that the author made it very approachable. The biggest take away that I found was that the issues we face today are little different than the same discussions and problems that have been around for a hundred years. I am not sure if I find that comforting or disheartening...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Annie Rim

    If you are a teacher, know a teacher, interact with teachers, this is a must read! Goldstein does an impressive job of covering the history of teaching, political influences, and controversy behind the profession. She also ends the book with some thoughtful ways to move forward.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    thinking..will write later

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    I learned a lot and still don't have any clear answers. Usually a good sign that a book is well researched and fair. I learned a lot and still don't have any clear answers. Usually a good sign that a book is well researched and fair.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zach Fricke

    Sticky Note Factor: 📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒 If future teachers should be assigned any one book to read before they commit to the classroom, The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein is it. Starting in 1815, Goldstein tracks the often battling philosophies of teachers, superintendents, policymakers, and presidents that create change in the classroom for teachers. These lessons from history provide a clear picture of what drives the changes teachers must reckon with during their tenure -- or non-tenure. Teachers cannot Sticky Note Factor: 📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒📒 If future teachers should be assigned any one book to read before they commit to the classroom, The Teacher Wars by Dana Goldstein is it. Starting in 1815, Goldstein tracks the often battling philosophies of teachers, superintendents, policymakers, and presidents that create change in the classroom for teachers. These lessons from history provide a clear picture of what drives the changes teachers must reckon with during their tenure -- or non-tenure. Teachers cannot escape the policy decisions or the ramifications of the talking heads in the public media painting teachers in an ugly light, but they can escape the lack of understanding of the dynamics of their profession (whoa ... quite a few prepositions in there). Goldstein not only covers the historical changes from the push and shove of policy but also research that supports or debunks the policy form A Nation at Risk to No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top. What she discovers is something that teachers will have known all along ... "socioeconomic factors such as family income and access to health care outweighed IQ as predictors of academic success. IQ appeared to be changeable over time, not a measure of innate talent." and "One of the best things a teacher can do for [his or her] students is to set high, individualized expectations for each of them, regardless of a child's past performance or whether he comes to class with a label." and "the current achievement gap is driven much more by out-of-school factors than by in-school factors." and "No teacher wants to fail." and Merit pay doesn't work. and As much effort must be put into training great administrators as great teachers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    A long history of how public education in the United States has been ground between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Poorly researched (or faith-based) ideas pushed by well-meaning idealists, promising, yet chronically underfunded ideas, discrimination and segregation. Goldstein has a bias (don't we all?), but largely avoids villainizing the players, or piling on judgement. I was amazed that after recounting close to 200 years of failures, she was able to sound optimistic about several prog A long history of how public education in the United States has been ground between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Poorly researched (or faith-based) ideas pushed by well-meaning idealists, promising, yet chronically underfunded ideas, discrimination and segregation. Goldstein has a bias (don't we all?), but largely avoids villainizing the players, or piling on judgement. I was amazed that after recounting close to 200 years of failures, she was able to sound optimistic about several programs in progress while writing the book. Considering that in all that time we still haven't eradicated the original misconception of public education in America "public education will be saved by young, ambitious, yet barely trained women who will work cheaply because gosh darn it, teaching kids is the right thing to do".

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cathey

    My husband gave me this book as a Christmas gift. I've always wondered why education was so political; why we couldn't all just do what's best for the children; why people either love or hate teachers. Now, I know. I couldn't put this book down and yet it took me 9 days to read and I have two pages of names, titles, ideas, and theories to look up as I work to become a more professional and better educator. I strongly recommend this for any educator, parent, or person who cares about schooling. My husband gave me this book as a Christmas gift. I've always wondered why education was so political; why we couldn't all just do what's best for the children; why people either love or hate teachers. Now, I know. I couldn't put this book down and yet it took me 9 days to read and I have two pages of names, titles, ideas, and theories to look up as I work to become a more professional and better educator. I strongly recommend this for any educator, parent, or person who cares about schooling.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chadley

    I felt uncertain starting my first attorney job as a special education lawyer when I had no background in education, so I asked an educator friend for a recommendation to help fill the gap. I'm glad that recommendation included the Teacher Wars. It is a socially conscious account of the evolution of education in American with an easy and informative narrative. Definitely something I would recommend to others interested in education. I felt uncertain starting my first attorney job as a special education lawyer when I had no background in education, so I asked an educator friend for a recommendation to help fill the gap. I'm glad that recommendation included the Teacher Wars. It is a socially conscious account of the evolution of education in American with an easy and informative narrative. Definitely something I would recommend to others interested in education.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trent Mikesell

    Interesting and comprehensive overview of education in America for the last two centuries. Loved the information on teacher tenure and teacher unions (two ideas I support). Excellent resource if you want to better understand the behemoth (and I use that word with love in my heart) of tradition that is public ed.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    Excellent history of public education in the U.S. Eye-opening stuff. It seems it's been either pasttime or racket for most folks; rarely a crusade. Excellent history of public education in the U.S. Eye-opening stuff. It seems it's been either pasttime or racket for most folks; rarely a crusade.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Boochever

    I wish every person would read this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I’ve become convinced that understanding the history of a particular issue is essential for understanding current policy debates about that issue. Teacher Wars delves into the history of education policy in the United States with a specific focus on the role of teachers and it is a must read for anyone interested in education policy. Early in the 19th century, there were few public schools – most were organized by churches or charitable societies and were one room schools for all ages with male t I’ve become convinced that understanding the history of a particular issue is essential for understanding current policy debates about that issue. Teacher Wars delves into the history of education policy in the United States with a specific focus on the role of teachers and it is a must read for anyone interested in education policy. Early in the 19th century, there were few public schools – most were organized by churches or charitable societies and were one room schools for all ages with male teachers. The author, Dana Goldstein, reviews how during the course of the 19th century universal public education evolved, women came to dominate the profession (they were cheaper and seen as more morally pure), how, following the civil war, education was seen as a way for the black community to escape the poverty of hard labor in the fields and how and why teacher unions were first established. There was anxiety and pushback from education leaders on all of these developments. Important leaders in these efforts included Catherine Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe), Horace Mann, Susan B. Anthony, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois and Maggie Haley. In the 20th century, teachers unions became radicalized and experienced anti-communist purges in the 30s thru the 50s. With desegregation following Brown v. Board, it was largely black teachers in the south who were fired as part of efforts to consolidate schools, something that is now being repeated with the charter school movement. During the late 60s, unions clashed with the community control movement (that grew from the black power movement) because unions had recently won collective bargaining rights and they didn’t want to have to negotiate with each individual school district as opposed to a central authority. Community control advocates, on the other hand, pushed to fire white teachers in black communities because research showed they had lower expectations of black students relative to white students, affecting their educational achievement. Reagan’s education secretary, Ted Bell, published a report called A Nation At Risk in 1983 which blamed unaccountable teachers for failing schools and was a catalyst for today’s school reform movement with its focus on standardized testing, data driven evaluation of teachers and merit pay. Reagan pushed the report and associated new reforms in an effort to move away from desegregation efforts even though evidence showed that students at integrated schools performed better. Bush’s No Child Left Behind built on this framework and created perverse incentives to “teach to the test,” which has been widely derided together with other aspects of the law. Merit pay for teachers, part of today’s reform efforts, has been tried before in the 20s, 60s, and 80s but has always been abandoned because it has proven to be overly bureaucratic and ineffective. More recently, merit pay together with the firing of teachers based on student test score performance has resulted in some teachers and administrators cheating by changing students’ wrong answers on tests. In fact, evaluation of teachers based on student test scores only identifies a small percentage of poor teachers who are then fired, rather than helped to improve their teaching ability, and doesn’t have an impact on overall school quality or on subjects outside of the typically tested subjects of math, science and reading. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world where teachers, dating back to early in our history, are routinely criticized and attacked in the media as part of education reform efforts. Goldstein makes clear that the solution to reforming our education policies is to rely on the expertise of the best teachers rather than to fear the worst teachers, and to implement reform from the ground up rather than the top down. She recommends that we pay teachers more, encourage specialization in different teaching theories, allow successful teachers to take on more responsibility over time such as training other teachers or becoming administrators, and to make teacher colleges more selective and rigorous. She advocates for using test scores to determine which teachers need more help or can serve as mentors to new or struggling teachers, allowing teachers to regularly observe each other - including for evaluation purposes, recruiting more men and people of color as teachers, and to work toward better racial integration. We should also encourage students to do internships; implement universal pre-k school; and improve outside factors such as a living wage, affordable child care, health care, housing and college; and better vocational training and nutrition. There is a lot of detail in this book and my summary only scratches the surface. The book is critical in providing the historical perspective on education policy but should perhaps be paired with Diane Ravitch’s recent books for a fuller understanding of current education policy debates.

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