Larry Cuban’s reposting of Samuel Freedman’s New Yorker piece, The Book that Got Teaching Right, serves as salve for this teacher’s soul.
My brief experience as a public school teacher has opened my eyes to the ongoing battles between those who advocate for teachers recognizing the enormity of their (our) tasks and those who seek to blame teachers for society’s ills. While all teachers can improve, as anyone who works in any role at any employer may as well, teachers, or their unions, are not the enemy of progress as reformers proclaim. As a profession of caregivers, we give our heart and our soul in our attempts to educate those brought into our classrooms year after year, regardless of their prior preparation, socioeconomic status and its concomitant burdens, or desire to be present. The fact that we continue to struggle today with circumstances depicted in the sixties by such a classic novel as Up the Down Staircase underscores the fact that the societal class with the economic means to contribute the most to improving our system continues to hoard their wealth while seeking to extract more from the public coffers. Loosen your purse strings folks, rather than pointing your fingers at those who willingly sacrifice for those who have so little.
“…one of the most significant aspects of the controversy over “decentralization,” as community control was formally called, was how it fostered the idea of teachers as the enemy. Decentralization was the product of an alliance between organizations run by liberal élites, such as the Ford Foundation, and low-income black and Puerto Rican communities. This created a pincer effect, with middle-class white teachers and principals portrayed, from both above and below, as the problem. They didn’t live where they taught; they didn’t care.” (Samuel Freedman, 2014)
Samuel G. Freedman has authored seven books one of which is Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School. He is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker. This piece was published September 1, 2014.
In the course of a few decades, I became separated from my copy of “Up the Down Staircase,” Bel Kaufman’s classic novel about a New York City schoolteacher. So after Kaufman died, in July, at the age of a hundred and three, I felt compelled to reread the book. I called up my neighborhood Barnes & Noble to reserve a copy. Considering the stunning popularity “Up the Down Staircase” had enjoyed—it spent sixty-four weeks on the best-seller list after its release, in 1965, inspired a popular film adaptation in 1967, and ultimately sold more than six million copies—I assumed that the coverage of Kaufman’s death had renewed interest in…
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