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Teaching in America: The Slow Revolution

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If the essential acts of teaching are the same for schoolteachers and professors, why are they seen as members of quite separate professions? Would the nation's schools be better served if teachers shared more of the authority that professors have long enjoyed? Will a slow revolution be completed that enables schoolteachers to take charge of their practice—to shoulder more responsibility for hiring, mentoring, promoting, and, if necessary, firing their peers?

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Overview

If the essential acts of teaching are the same for schoolteachers and professors, why are they seen as members of quite separate professions? Would the nation's schools be better served if teachers shared more of the authority that professors have long enjoyed? Will a slow revolution be completed that enables schoolteachers to take charge of their practice—to shoulder more responsibility for hiring, mentoring, promoting, and, if necessary, firing their peers?

This book explores these questions by analyzing the essential acts of teaching in a way that will help all teachers become more thoughtful practitioners. It presents portraits of teachers (most of them women) struggling to take control of their practice in a system dominated by an administrative elite (mostly male). The educational system, Gerald Grant and Christine Murray argue, will be saved not by better managers but by better teachers. And the only way to secure them is by attracting talented recruits, developing their skills, and instituting better means of assessing teachers' performance.

Grant and Murray describe the evolution of the teaching profession over the last hundred years, and then focus in depth on recent experiments that gave teachers the power to shape their schools and mentor young educators. The authors conclude by analyzing three equally possible scenarios depicting the role of teachers in 2020.

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Editorial Reviews

G. E. Pawlas
By sharing the thoughts of famous teachers and some ordinary ones too, [Gerald Grant and Christine Murray] thoughtfully review the teaching profession. Their in-depth focus on recent experiments that give teachers the power to shape their schools and mentor new recruits to teaching is insightful. Grant and Murray conclude that the educational system will be saved not by better managers but by better teachers. These new teachers' talents and skills must be developed and their teaching performance assessed through better means and the involvement of other teachers.
Julianne Basinger
Gerald Grant and Christine Murray have interviewed and observed more than 500 teachers and spent a decade studying schools, colleges, and universities. The book that grew out of that research, Teaching in America describes a paradox made apparent by their work. Schoolteachers and professors do the same fundamental work—teaching students—yet the respect, compensation, and working conditions of schoolteachers often fall short of those traditionally accorded to professors...Those separate histories have created misleading images of each profession, [Grant] adds: To see professors as bookish scholars is as much of a distortion as to see schoolteachers as little more than baby sitters.
June K. Phillips
Teaching in America is an engaging book. For the reader who is or has been an educator in the schools, the historical narratives and the contemporary issues ring true. But the book lends itself to a much wider audience that includes all those interested in our schools and in education who want to understand the complexities of where we are and how we got there by listening to the voices of teachers in a relatively jargon-free story.
Vivian Gussin Paley
"The two professor's book reflects the changes in the professions. They correctly see today's schoolteachers as being very concerned about their own status. Teachers want to have agreater say in creating curricula and making professional decisions based upon firsthand knowledge of what goes on in the classroom."
&The Chronicle of Higher Education
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This unusual book began at the authors' dinner tables, when they noticed that their spouses--one an elementary school teacher, one a university professor--were treated quite differently even though their work was "essentially the same." This realization prompted months of research into the history of schoolteachers and university professors. Grant and Murray refer to the crusade of college professors in the late 19th century as the "first revolution"--in which male professors fought a male administrative regime for higher pay and control over curriculum and tenure. A second revolution, they argue, is occurring now among schoolteachers, but slowly. It "pits mostly female workers, who have often been demeaned as high-paid baby-sitters, against entrenched male leaders." The book chronicles the significant progress of this slow revolution, focusing on three landmark case studies. Readers concerned with the condition of public schools and the status of schoolteachers will find that Grant and Murray not only provide them with solid ammunition for debate but also give them reason to keep up their spirits. (Mar.) FYI: Teaching in America won the publisher's annual prize awarded to an outstanding book about education and society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674869615
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.41 (w) x 9.47 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Grant is the Hannah Hammond Professor of Education and Sociology, Emeritus at Syracuse University.

Christine Murray is Associate Professor of Education and Human Development at the State University of New York College at Brockport.

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Table of Contents

1 Two Professions 1
2 Assessing America's Teachers and Schools 10
3 The Essential Acts of Teaching 31
4 Three Questions Every Teacher Must Answer 57
5 The Modern Origins of the Profession: Florence's Story, 1890-1920 76
6 Reforming Teaching in the Midst of Social Crisis: Andrena's Story, 1960-1990 103
7 Teachers' Struggle to Take Charge of Their Practice: The Rochester Story, 1987-1997 141
8 The Progress of the Slow Revolution throughout the Nation 182
9 Teaching in 2020 213
Research Methods 239
Notes 243
Acknowledgments 269
Index 271
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