The story of an Ocean Hill–Brownsville teacher who crossed picket lines during the racially charged New York City teachers’ strike of 1968.
In 1968 the conflict that erupted over community control of the New York City public schools was centered in the black and Puerto Rican community of Ocean Hill–Brownsville. It triggered what remains the longest teachers’ strike in US history. That clash, between the city’s communities of color and the white, predominantly Jewish teachers’ union, paralyzed the nation’s largest school system, undermined the city’s economy, and heightened racial tensions, ultimately transforming the national conversation about race relations.
At age twenty-two, when the strike was imminent, Charles S. Isaacs abandoned his full scholarship to a prestigious law school to teach mathematics in Ocean Hill–Brownsville. Despite his Jewish background and pro-union leanings, Isaacs crossed picket lines manned by teachers who looked like him, and took the side of parents and children who did not. He now tells the story of this conflict, not only from inside the experimental, community-controlled Ocean Hill–Brownsville district, its focal point, but from within ground zero itself: Junior High School 271, which became the nation’s most famous, or infamous, public school. Isaacs brings to life the innovative teaching practices that community control made possible, and the relationships that developed in the district among its white teachers and its black and Puerto Rican parents, teachers, and community activists.
|Publisher:||State University of New York Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Charles S. Isaacs is a former schoolteacher, college professor, social activist, community organizer, financial analyst, and occasional journalist. He is currently an independent real estate advisor to New York City’s nonprofit community. He resides in Newburgh, New York.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Part I. Prelude to Confrontation
Part II. Ten Weeks, Three Strikes
Part III. The Vise Tightens
Part IV. Aftermath
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you have ever been curious to find out what was actually behind the New York City school strikes of 1968 or if you wondered whether there was ever a time when the New York City school system could have been made to work for minority students, then Inside Ocean Hill-Brownville is the book to read. As an Ocean Hill-Brownsville, JHS 271 math teacher, Charles Isaacs was at the epicenter of the storm. While Al Shanker, the head of the United Federation of Teachers, used “black anti-Semitism” as the rallying cry to challenge any attempt to implement actual “community control” and parental involvement, Mr. Isaacs’s, white and Jewish, worked diligently and steadfastly to try to make community involvement work while, also, teaching math to the students in his classes. His experiences inside Ocean Hill-Brownsville, preserved by him in notes and press accounts, serve as primary source material, additionally, references to articles and books help paint a clear picture of what was at stake and what the city lost, and has continued to lose, when it allowed the union to win the strike. Mr. Isaacs is honest, thorough and insightful. This book is a very valuable addition to the literature on public education, the imperative of parental engagement, and the world New York City power politics.