Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Battle of the Schools

I just ordered this book about Shanker and look forward to reading it:

 Teachers' unions may now be at the height of their unpopularity.
This spring, not only did President Bush's first education secretary, Rod  Paige, march out a book warning of their "death grip" on American schools, but  the New York  City Schools Chancellor, Joel  Klein , privately told Mr. Paige that his critique was too kind. By fighting for what is best for teachers rather than what is best for students,  the unions have become a "worm in the apple" of American schools.
So it might come as a surprise that "Tough Liberal: Albert  Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy" (  Columbia University Press, 552 pages, $29.95) -- a biography of the man who  made teachers' unions the political powerhouses they are today -- is an  unapologetic appreciation of Shanker. Richard  Kahlenberg proclaims Shanker, who led the New York City teachers' union  between 1964 and 1974 and then the national American Federation of Teachers until his death in 1997, the best and most important educator since John  Dewey...
Going against the immediate  interests of his members, Shanker would also fight for educational innovations such as higher pay for teachers who performed better, charter schools that would be free from district bureaucracies, and strict national standards in  schools.

This history is an important revision to critiques of teachers' unions that are now at risk of solidifying into dogma: The presumption that what is best for teachers is never the same as what is best for children. As Shanker's life bears proof, the presumption is untrue. A coalition behind the "tough-liberal" principles Shanker supported -- causes such as high educational standards, better pay for more accomplished teachers, more innovation through charter schools, and tough requirements to stay in the profession -- could include teachers as well as business-minded reformers such as Messrs. Paige and Klein.  Giving up on teachers' partnership would be a foolish shot in the foot.


The Battle of the Schools
September 4, 2007

Teachers' unions may now be at the height of their unpopularity.

 Subscribe in a reader