The authors of Disrupting Class describe the goals of education in this country as:
- Maximize human potential.
- Facilitate a vibrant, participative democracy in which we have an informed electorate that is capable of not being “spun” by self-interested leaders.
- Hone the skills, capabilities, and attitudes that will help our economy remain prosperous and economically competitive.
- Nurture the understanding that people can see things differently—and that those differences merit respect rather than persecution.
For me these ring true, in terms of my experience of my own education, of my values for our nation’s children, and of my hopes for my own work as a teacher. Nevertheless, it’s not clear that it is possible to succeed at all these goals at once, or even just one of them.
Dana Goldstein‘s history of teaching in the United States shows the roots of these goals and how they played out over time in our public education system. It’s a fascinating look at the evolution of the profession and the expectations we have of our schools.
Goldstein is decidedly sympathetic to teachers, who often feel trapped in an at least three-sided vice of parents and students, administrators, and governmental mandates — many unfunded. Read The Teacher Wars if you want to understand some of that feeling and how teaching got to be that way. You might also gain insight on conflicts between teachers’ unions and school boards, between neighborhoods and education reformers, between testing and accountability, and other education-related controversies.
Educational culture in this country does not have to be the way it is. Reading this book will help you understand it better. And that should be the beginning of changing it for the better.