The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In some ways, it's almost impossible to measure the distance between the one-room schoolhouses of the frontier and the digital classrooms of today, but Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars convincingly shows that for parents and educators, the three questions most frequently raised and variously answered over that timespan have remained the same: Who should teach? What should be taught? Who should be held accountable for how our children learn? Of course, over the decades, these issues have materialized in new and very different ways; from debates about teacher gender and tenure to standardized testing, charter schools, and the roles of administrators and parents' groups. Slate and Atlantic education columnist author Goldstein uses character-driven chapters to elucidate the warfare that continues to engulf our schools.

Library Journal
★ 09/15/2014
The daughter of public school educators, reporter Goldstein used her year as a Spencer Fellow in Education Reporting conducting archival research and interviewing education experts. The result is an historical perspective on education reform that both enlightens and inspires. Each chapter explores a different facet of today's education debates (e.g., teacher unionism). While much of this history has been covered in greater detail elsewhere, Goldstein's talent is to connect past and present in memorable ways. For example, in a chapter on teachers' involvement with McCarthy-era "witch hunts," Goldstein shows how—despite thousands of left-wing educators having been hounded by investigators and driven from the profession—some of the pedagogical innovations these teachers implemented in urban schools, such as culturally relevant curricula and wraparound services for students in high-poverty neighborhoods, have since become mainstream principles of education reform. A concluding section enumerates the "lessons learned" from history by making explicit recommendations aimed at today's education reformers. Sprinkled among some rather noncontroversial policy suggestions (e.g., recruiting more men and people of color), Goldstein also suggests that classroom testing focus more on improving student learning than on punishing "bad teachers." VERDICT Alternately erudite and accessible, this book is highly recommended for parents, educators, and members of the public who wish to go beyond the headlines and delve deeper into today's pressing educational issues. [See Prepub Alert, 3/31/14.]—Seth Kershner, Northwestern Connecticut Community Coll. Lib., Winsted
The New York Times - Alexander Nazaryan
Ms. Goldstein's book is meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced, serving up historical commentary instead of a searing philippic. A hate-read is nigh impossible. (Trust me, I tried.) While Ms. Goldstein is sympathetic to the unionized public-school teacher, she also thinks the profession is hamstrung by a defensive selfishness, harboring too fine a memory for ancient wounds. The book skips nimbly from history to on-the-ground reporting to policy prescription, never falling on its face. If I were still teaching, I'd leave my tattered copy by the sputtering Xerox machine. I'd also recommend it to the average citizen who wants to know why Robert can't read, and Allison can't add.
The New York Times Book Review - Claudia Wallis
In The Teacher Wars, her lively account of the history of teaching, Dana Goldstein traces the numerous trends that have shaped "the most controversial profession in America." Along the way, she demonstrates that almost every idea for reforming education over the past 25 years has been tried before—and failed to make a meaningful difference.
Publishers Weekly
06/30/2014
Teaching in America, which began as an informal, seasonal job heavily influenced by locale, has evolved into a highly politicized and polarizing profession, argues Goldstein in this immersive and well-researched history. Goldstein, who comes from a long line of teachers, claims that teaching has historically been viewed as a profession best staffed by women and that there’s been a persistent classist (not to mention racist) undercurrent in education that continues to this day via programs that focus on test scores and ratings. Readers may be surprised to learn that hot-button issues, such as overcrowding and teaching ESL, are hardly new. The author also discusses educational fads, the battle for federal funding, the vilification of teachers’ unions, and the nation’s almost pathological obsession with data and statistics. Goldstein closes with recommendations for the future, including: better pay; more perspective on test scores; and the expansion of teachers’ purviews in the classroom. Attacking a veritable hydra of issues, Goldstein does an admirable job, all while remaining optimistic about the future of this vital profession. Agent: Howard Yoon, Ross Yoon Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Ms. Goldstein’s book is meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced, serving up historical commentary instead of a searing philippic ... The book skips nimbly from history to on-the-ground reporting to policy prescription, never falling on its face. If I were still teaching, I’d leave my tattered copy by the sputtering Xerox machine. I’d also recommend it to the average citizen who wants to know why Robert can’t read, and Allison can’t add."
—New York Times

"[A] lively account of the history of teaching ... The Teacher Wars suggests that to improve our schools, we have to help teachers do their job the way higher-achieving nations do: by providing ­better preservice instruction, offering newcomers more support from well-trained mentors and opening up the “black box” classroom so teachers can observe one another without fear and share ideas. Stressing accountability, with no ideas for improving teaching, Goldstein says, is 'like the hope that buying a scale will result in losing weight.' Such books may be sounding the closing bell on an era when the big ideas in school reform came from economists and solutions were sought in spreadsheets of test data."
—New York Times Book Review

"[An] immersive and well-researched history ... Attacking a veritable hydra of issues, Goldstein does an admirable job, all while remaining optimistic about the future of this vital profession."
—Publishers Weekly

"Think teachers are overpaid? Or are they dishonored and overworked? Both positions, this useful book suggests, are very old—and very tired ... Goldstein delivers a smart, evenhanded source of counterargument."
—Kirkus Reviews

“I wanted to yell ‘Yes! Yes! Thank you for finally talking sense’ on page after page. Anyone who wants to be a combatant in or commentator on the teacher wars has to read The Teacher Wars.” 
—Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes and author of Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy

“It’s hard to know what to make of teachers. In the news and in the movies they are sometimes vampires sucking off public goodwill and sometimes saviors of America’s children. In this totally surprising book Dana Goldstein—who has always been Slate’s sharpest writer on education—explains how teachers have always been at the center of controversy. At once poetic and practical, The Teacher Wars will make school seem like the most exciting place on earth.”
—Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men

“Dana Goldstein proves to be as skilled an education historian as she is an astute observer of the contemporary state of the teaching profession. May policy makers take heed.”
—Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

“A colorful, immensely readable account that helps make sense of the heated debates around teaching and school reform. The Teacher Wars is the kind of smart, timely narrative that parents, educators, and policy makers have sorely needed.”
—Frederick M. Hess, Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute
 
“Dana Goldstein is one of the best education writers around. Her history of the teaching profession is that and much more: an investigation into the political forces that can help or hinder student learning.”
—Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy

“Dana Goldstein has managed the impossible: She's written a serious education book that's fresh, insightful, and enjoyable to read.”
—Michael Petrilli, Executive Vice President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute

“Teaching has always been a political profession. We all have a dog in this fight. So I can hardly imagine anyone who could not profit from reading this erudite, elegant, and relentlessly sensible book. Listen to Dana Goldstein: ‘We must quiet the teacher wars.’ Reading The Teacher Wars would be a great way to start.”
—Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland

“If more people involved in today’s discussion about education reform read this book, our national conversation about schooling would be deeper and more effective. Buy this book. Read this book. Share it with your friends who care about education. A very important work.”
—Peg Tyre, author of The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve
 
“Why are today's teachers pictured simultaneously as superheroes and villains? In clear, crisp language, Dana Goldstein answers that question historically by bringing to life key figures and highlighting crucial issues that shaped both teachers and teaching over the past century. Few writers about school reform frame the context in which teachers have acted in the past. Goldstein does exactly that in thoughtfully explaining why battles over teachers have occurred then and now.”
—Larry Cuban, Professor Emeritus of Education, Stanford University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385536967
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 19,806
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

DANA GOLDSTEIN comes from a family of public school educators. She received the Spencer Fellowship in Education Journalism, a Schwarz Fellowship at the New America Foundation, and a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellowship at the Nation Institute. Her journalism is regularly featured in Slate, The Atlantic, The Nation, The Daily Beast, and other publications, and she is a staff writer at the Marshall Project. She lives in New York City. Her social policy blog is danagoldstein.com.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2014

    This is not a legitimate history book. It is a chronological lis

    This is not a legitimate history book. It is a chronological list of victims and villains associated with education in the U.S. The angels in this morality talare women, persons of color, and "progressives". Of course, you know who the devils are. Goldstein's bias is so obvious it allows her to write this sentence, "Though he participated in Soviet espionage, Brauder was a relative moderate." When writing about N.Y.C. schools that admit on the basis of test scores, she bemoans the dearth of students of color, leaving the impression that Caucasians unfairly squeeze them out. The word "Asian" does not appear in this book, because they do not fit in either of her categories. There is no way to determine what else she ignores or slants. Do not waste your time or money on this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    Goldstein has managed to cover the history of public education i

    Goldstein has managed to cover the history of public education in the US for nearly two centuries in a narrative style that moves the reader through the decades decisively and engagingly by highlighting personalities and politics. What is especially pertinent is that The Teacher Wars is relevant and interesting to a wide range of would-be readers: teachers, those considering a teaching career, parents, parents-to-be, academics, policy makers, grantors researchers, HS students, and more . . . in short, nearly anyone who gives a hoot about teaching kids and how they learn. The book would be a valuable addition to the syllabus for undergrad and grad students majoring in education. This reader especially enjoyed Chapter 9 and the Epilogue. Having avoided bias and "opinionating" in her book, in the last dozen pages, Goldstein discusses common-sense suggestions that might help end the teacher wars in this country.

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