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Exploring America’s Disdain for Teachers

Atlantic Monthly writer Noah Berlatsky shares his impressions of Dana Goldstein’s new book, The Teacher Wars.

Much of today’s education reform efforts are misguided and heavily target teachers as the enemy, according to Berlatsky. Some reformers believe that “if teachers are the problem with education, then you can solve the problem of education with ever more vigorous control, and ever more constant evaluation, of teachers.”

The drive to replace aging or jaded teachers actually has its roots in early America. In the early 1800s, Catherine Beecher urged young women to replace the (to use a modern word) underperforming older male teachers.

Helping teachers succeed--as some districts have done when providing teachers with early literacy training--is empowering and may have lasting results. Goldstein even advocates for higher teacher pay and a chance for veteran teachers to mentor others. Rather than overly questioning veteran teachers and being suspicious of their skill level, use their strengths and talents to improve not only their individual classrooms but entire schools, Goldstein suggests. Moreover, studies have shown that first year teachers struggle and that many teachers leave within the first six years of teaching.

Our education system has many problems, but one of the biggest is that we define those problems in terms of "teacher wars"—and then try to solve them through a war on teachers.

 

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