The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession (Goldstein)

 I’d put this on the mandatory list – for teachers, administrators, prospective teachers, those who prepare teachers for the profession, those who make public policy about education – pretty much everyone, since everyone has at least some tangential link to education.

This book made me realized that while the names, dates, and details may have changed, there’s not much about the controveresies surrounding teachers have remained the same. We are not having new discussions. There’s just more pressure on them.

I’ve long struggled with teacher unions. On the one hand, I’ve always thought that teacher unions should focus on children. And if this meant removing bad teachers, then the Union should be behind that. On the other hand, shouldn’t teacher union be like other professional unions and work for the good of the adults in the equation? Granted, protecting bad professionals diminishes the regard for the profession as a whole, but what’s the balance? Teachers do need time, mentorship, and a good match in order to succeed. But Goldstein reminds us, teacher unions work with taxpayer money. Game, set and match – the focus should be on the children.

Goldstein maintains a fairly even tone. It’s clear her focus is on the children. She tries to point out the good work being done in places like St. Louis and Memphis and (and I know some of you will hate to hear this) in Teach for America. She has observations – both good and bad – to make about all relevant topics, including Bill Gates on and standardized testing.

This is a good, well-written, well-researched contribution to the study of our schools. How about we all read this and agree to make new mistakes instead of repeating the ones of old?


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