How yesterday’s teacher wars explain today’s education battles

Sep 19, 2014 by

By Alexandria Neason

On the heels of a summer fraught with drama surrounding teachers and the policies that govern the schools where they work, education reporter Dana Goldstein offers a new look at the deep history of the profession to understand today’s disputes.

In her first book, “The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession,” Goldstein chronicles milestones like the feminization of teaching, labor abuses and the subsequent rise of unions, and the relationship between schools, social justice and politics to remind us that today’s battles, reforms, and even some innovations are, however repackaged, often old news.

Goldstein talked with The Hechinger Report about what makes a good teacher, and how paying more attention to the past could help push American education forward.

Additional Resources: The Haberman Foundation

Q. An underlying theme of the book is that many modern education reforms are not actually new; they’ve been tried before in what seems like a vicious cycle where we find something that needs fixing, talk about it for a while and then move on to the next issue. How do we break the cycle and start to see actual changes happening?

A. One of the reasons why reform efforts have failed again and again is that they tend to be extremely top down. They ask teachers to change but don’t give them the training and funding they need to make changes. Sustainable reform, in any social institution, is more likely to come from the bottom up than from the top down. [That way] they’re coming up with a plan that can actually be implemented successfully in their setting. A lot of our political systems make it really difficult.

There is a small movement that has existed since the 1970s of teacher-led schools. But in terms of, are we empowering teachers to do this politically? Unfortunately, not yet. There’s so much sense among parents and educators that the very big push on standardized testing has jumped the shark. We’re really looking for new ideas.

If we keep pursuing reform efforts that don’t actually empower teachers instructionally, what is at stake is this continued frustration, political rhetoric and conversation based on the idea of educational failure.

via Q&A with Dana Goldstein: How yesterday’s teacher wars explain today’s education battles | The Hechinger Report.

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