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Annotated Bibliography Bill Gates

Alain de Botton

The School of Life

Founded:  2008, in London

Where:  Headquarters in London, with an expanding network of campuses worldwide

For more than twenty years, philosopher Alain de Botton has been writing astute, witty, and enormously successful books on a wide range of subjects (profound and mundane) for a popular audience.  Beginning as a bold, modern reimagining of the self-help industry, The School of Life is a new kind of intellectual institution devoted to the issues of everyday life.  With campuses opening all over the world, it’s a – smart, interesting, relevant – global juggernaut.  People love to bandy about the word innovation, but de Botton et al. have created something that actually merits it.

In a phrase:  “Good Ideas for Everyday Life”

David Christian

The Big History Project

Founded:  2011

Where:  Everywhere?

A History professor figures out how to tell the history of the entire universe. Later figures out how to do it in 20 minutes.  Builds a college course, and then a high school and lifelong learning curriculum around it.  Gets Bill Gates behind it.  Nuff said.

Say What?:  “Big History is a framework for all knowledge. From the Big Bang to the modern day — and to what may lie ahead, Big History considers the great questions about our Universe, our planet, life, and humanity.”

Caterina Fake

Findery

Founded:  2012, in San Francisco

Where:  Online

A highly-successful serial internet entrepreneur, Fake’s latest company, Findery, is a brilliant vehicle for engaging with a powerful idea in contemporary life.  While many tech mavens continue to proclaim the end of “place” as a meaningful way of understanding human experience, Fake has created an online platform that creatively connects us to our natural, cultural, and historical landscapes – and in the process, she allows all of us to rethink the popular discourse about place.  With her background in the humanities, Fake also demonstrates that online innovation can be a way to engage deeply and seriously with ideas that matter.  

Peter Forbes

The Center for Whole Communities (emeritus)

Founded:  2001

Where:  Knoll Farm, Fayston, Vermont

When getting ready to launch a new leadership development organization, Peter Forbes first sat down to write and edit several books about the idea of place.  At The Center for Whole Communities, Forbes developed a curriculum deeply embedded in the world of ideas and the practice of bringing ideas into the world through dialogue, self-reflection, and engagement.  He also designed the learning environment in which this curriculum was implemented, established the faculty structure, selected faculty (including humanities scholars and practitioners, yoga teachers, and social activists) and trained them as facilitators.  More than 2,000 people from 50 states, Mexico and Canada have participated in the Center for Whole Communities’ leadership development programs.

Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton

The Lexicon of Sustainability

Founded:  2009

Where:  Petaluma, California

Defining concepts and talking about words to build a movement.  Using all kinds of contemporary strategies to get the “word” out:  visual storytelling, pop-up shows, crowd-sourcing ideas, thought leadership, books, films and more.  Any organization that puts “lexicon” in the name – need we say more?

Seth Godin

Entrepreneur

Since:  Some decades ago

Where:  New York, and in seventeen books (and counting)

Business-y types love the term “thought leader” but if you’re anything like us, you’re usually left wondering, "Where’s the thinking...and the leadership?"  Yes, he’s an MBA, but Philosophy-trained Seth Godin is another breed entirely: someone who offers insights drawn from his business experience and his experience as a human being – and engages with big ideas in the context of our lives and the search for purpose and meaning.  His opus goes back to 1993, and the worlds of technology and business have changed a lot, so understand that older titles have to be read in historical context (but you’re a smart cookie, so you know that).  Godin doesn’t (just) offer ideas about business – his business is about life.

In his own words:  Godin writes and talks “about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership and most of all, changing everything.”

Brooke Hecht

The Center for Humans and Nature

Founded: 2003, by Strachan Donnelley, one-time English major, Philosophy PhD, and self-described "fly-fishing philosopher"

Where:  Chicago

Brooke Hecht has a PhD in ecosystem ecology, but she leads the insanely interdisciplinary think tank The Center for Humans and Nature.  “We’re a group of engaged and curious thinkers who understand that ideas matter….We bring together philosophers, biologists, ecologists, lawyers, artists, political scientists, anthropologists, poets and economists, among others, to think creatively about how people can make better decisions — in relationship with each other and the rest of nature.”  Real world problems at the heart of who we are now, and who we may (and can) become -- addressed with rigor, compassion, and accessibility through dialogue amongst people across disciplines and sectors. Sometimes, the 21st century humanist is a scientist.

Tagline:  “Expanding Our Natural & Civic Imagination”

Christopher Kostow

The Restaurant at Meadowood

Since:  2008 at The Restaurant at Meadowood

Where:  Napa Valley, California

The humanities-trained Chef Christopher Kostow has not only won James Beard awards and 3-Michelin stars for his work in the kitchen – he has also linked his restaurant to gardens, artisans, and community.  In other words, in The Restaurant at Meadowood, Kostow has crafted an institution that enables him to explore the philosophy and nature of a place.  Like Alice Waters, Christopher Kostow is important because of the food, but also because he recognizes that food is a real-life way to explore ideas.  And he knows how to talk about those ideas in a way helps us better understand who we are and what we can be.

And this:  “In 2011 we expanded our gardening program with land leased through St. Helena Montessori, an amazing local school focused on experiential learning. We started with half an acre and have the potential to expand the garden to three acres. All of the students are afforded direct access to the farm, where they connect with the agricultural roots of the Napa Valley community and the Montessori tradition of environmental awareness.”

Elizabeth Lynn et al.

The Center for Civic Reflection

Founded:  1998

Where:  Chicago

Founder Elizabeth Lynn (a PhD in Religion and Literature) created a humanities-based curriculum and leadership development program to strengthen and deepen civic engagement.  Former staff Adam Davis and Kelli Covey joined her to expand and revise it.  (Davis is now leads Oregon Humanities, where past Executive Director Cara Ungar – a PhD in Rhetoric – did some of most innovative programming and branding work that the state Humanities Councils have produced.  Covey, whose was a PhD candidate in English and Cultural Studies, is now with Teach for America.)  The Center for Civic Reflection curriculum, utilizing readings, reflection, and dialogue, is used by the Corporation for National and Community Service and organizations across the country.  The trinity:  smart, practical, and impactful work.

What is civic reflection?  “Civic reflection broadly defined means reflecting on the work you do in the world.”

Malcolm Margolin

Heyday Books

Founded:  1974

Where:  Berkeley, California and bookstores near you

Heyday publishes books and magazines about the cultural, historical, and natural landscapes of California and creates a wide range of public education events, often in partnership with other humanities and cultural institutions.  In 2012, Margolin earned the second-ever Chairman’s Commendation from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Heyday is an institution built on the premise that a place is worth all the attention, imagination, and self-examination we can muster.  It celebrates and complicates our understanding of the idea, the people, and the "is-ness" of California – what more could a thinking person hope to do?  In his 70s, Margolin is relentlessly curious and a natural community-builder, and Heyday continues to innovate even after forty years.  This is the real deal, guys.

Roman Mars

99% Invisible

Founded:  2010, as a project of KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco. 

Where:  Produced in Oakland, CA.  Part of Radiotopia, airs on some public radio stations, iTunes.

A smart, thoughtful, research and story-driven podcast devoted to exploring an idea:  what is design and what’s our relationship to it?  Roman Mars' “tiny show” consistently produces rich insights about how things we take for granted shape our lives, and illuminates our inspirations, aspirations, and failures as human beings.  And Mars' drive to expand the circle of smart, savvy, storytellers engaged in podcasting is game-changing.

Good advice:  “Read the plaque.”

Douglas McGray

Pop-Up Magazine and The California Sunday Magazine

Founded:  2009 (Pop-Up Magazine) and 2014 (The California Sunday Magazine)

Where:  San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sunday newspapers and online

History major turned journalist Douglas McGray reformatted the “magazine” as a live, one-night-only event series in San Francisco.  Now, he’s gone retro with an ambitious plan to renew the idea of a print Sunday magazine for newspaper and online circulation.  Interesting ideas, good storytelling, beautifully produced.

Yaron Milgrom

Local Mission Eatery, Local Mission Market, & more

Founded:  2010

Where:  San Francisco

Milgrom was a dissertating PhD candidate in religious studies when he moved to San Francisco in 2008, but eventually something else took hold and compelled him to explore an idea by building something.  With Chef Jake Des Voignes, Milgrom opened Local Mission Eatery in 2010.  Reading this account the restaurant’s opening and evolution (and the proliferation of Local Mission’s other ventures), it’s clear that the search for meaning – the engagement of a curious mind with an idea and values – is still at the heart of Milgrom’s professional quest:  “It has been a lengthy search for Our Idea, our identity….Nearly three years in — still bound by our core values, through an extended process of self-realization, now refined through experience — we finally (finally!) clarified our idea.”  Those are words to which any scholar, any person will surely nod in recognition.

Inspiration for Idea-Driven Makers and Builders:  “Every restaurant has a beginning — or, as I see it, it has three beginnings:

  1. Idea
  2. Lease Signing
  3. Actual Opening”

Maria Popova

Brain Pickings

Founded:  2006, as a weekly email to a handful of friends

Where:  Virtual(ly everywhere)

Online, via weekly emails, on Flipboard, and otherwise gloriously ubiquitous, Brain Pickings is, in the words its founder and curator, “a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.” Deeply personal and idiosyncratic, Brain Pickings is an intellectual tour de force, featuring the topics nearest and dearest to smart people's 21st century hearts.  461,000 Twitter followers, 150,000+ e-newsletter subscribers, 500,000+ website visitors each month.

Nothing embodies the intellectual curiosity, creative spirit, and impact of 21st century life learning better than Brain Pickings. Subscribe.

Quote:  “Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

Gregory Rodriguez

Zócalo Public Square

Founded:  2003, in Los Angeles as a project of the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University

Where:  Headquarters in Los Angeles, with select events in other U.S. cities, journalism syndicated nationally, and online in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History

Zócalo Public Square is an “Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.”  Daily journalism is nationally-syndicated and live events engage audiences on a range of contemporary issues.  Rodriguez established and grew a new intellectual community from scratch, and simultaneously resurrected the all-but-defunct public sphere in a major metropolitan area.

Last year, Zócalo hosted 70 events in 11 cities and published over 600 original features.

Quotes:  "A lifelong lover of bookstores, I knew few greater joys than entering a shop with one topic in mind but accidentally stumbling upon another. In an age of self-selected, like-minded physical and online communities, Zócalo has sought to preserve a healthy dose of eclectic serendipity. We cater to people who are curious not just about things they already know but also about things they don’t."

“Neither a proper journalist nor a proper academic, and never given to heavy identification with causes or clubs, I didn’t have a constituency, professional or otherwise, to call my own.”

Alexander Rose et al.

The Long Now Foundation

Founded:  1996

Where:  San Francisco

Get people to think about the really, really far away future with projects like the 10,000 Year Clock, Pan Lex (“every word in every language”), and The Interval (a bar/café, library, museum combo “to help make long-term thinking more instinctive and common, rather than difficult and rare”). 

Founding Board member Stewart Brand sets the context this way:  “Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed - some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where 'long-term' is measured at least in centuries. Long Now proposes both a mechanism and a myth.”  Any time an institution is launched to create a paradigm-shift in people’s thinking, humanists should be yodeling from the mountaintops.

Quote:  “The point is to explore whatever may be helpful for thinking, understanding, and acting responsibly over long periods of time.” - Stewart Brand

Scott Samuelson

Kirkwood Community College

Where:  Iowa City, Iowa

The author of The Deepest Human Life:  An Introduction to Philosophy for Everyone (and a great little article in The Atlantic called “Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers”), Scott Samuelson embodies what it looks like when someone teaches ideas in a way that matters, to people who actually think that the humanities should help them understand themselves, their hopes and dreams, their failing and pitfalls, their histories, families, communities and themselves – that is, life – better.

Quote:  “Sure, there were plenty of indifferent students drifting aimlessly toward a job.  But there were also nurses, ex-cons, soldiers, aspiring chiropractors, social misfits, and many others, who believed, naively and correctly, that philosophy could make a difference in their lives.”

Rebecca Solnit

Independent writer

Since:  Publishing since the late 1980s

Where:  San Francisco, and your local bookstore

Trained as a journalist, Solnit writes about some of the most important issues of our day, including the environment, politics, place, and art.  Well-researched, interdisciplinary, insightful, historically-engaged, personal, and beautifully written, Solnit’s work is scholarly without being remotely academic.

Thaddeus Squire

Hidden City Philadelphia

Founded:  2009, with the Hidden City Festival

Where:  Philadelphia

“Pragmatic Intellectual” Thaddeus Squire got access to abandoned historic buildings in a historic city and created a festival that lets the public explore these buildings and their stories.  A student of History and Music, Squire is clearly well-versed in the worlds of history, arts, and culture.  As founder of Hidden City, he created a real-world way for the public to explore the connection between people and place and to talk about both the past and the future.

This is the official bibliography for LAWCHA’s Teaching and Public Sector Unionism initiative. A full listing of our resources can be found on the Teaching Resources page. For an overview of teachers’ unions, see our featured article, “A Century of Teacher Organizing: What Can We Learn?”

General

This section provides materials on overviews of teacher and public sector unionism, as well as the austerity agenda that is creating a crisis in pensions, etc. Many have links to the actual articles.

Arnesen, Eric. Editor. Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working-Class History. New York: Routledge, 2007.

The entries below offer important, concise background information on their respective topics.

Leroux, Karen. “National Education Association.” 952-956.

Slater, Joseph E. “Public-Sector Unionism.” 1143-1149.

Lyons, John F. “American Federation of Teachers.” 87-90.

Bale, Jeff and Sarah Knopp. Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012.

“In the first decade of the twenty-first century, a conservative, bipartisan consensus dominates about what’s wrong with our schools and how to fix them. In each case, those solutions scapegoat teachers, vilify our unions, and promise more private control and market mentality as the answer. In each case, students lose—especially students of color and the children of the working class and the poor.This book, written by teacher activists, speaks back to that elite consensus. It draws on the ideas and experiences of social justice educators concerned with fighting against racism and for equality, and those of activists oriented on recapturing the radical roots of the labor movement. Informed by a revolutionary vision of pedagogy, schools, and education, it paints a radical critique of education in Corporate America, past and present, and contributes to a vision of alternatives for education and liberation.” (description from Haymarket website: http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Education-and-Capitalism)

Bell, Deborah. “Unionized Women in State and Local Government” in Women, Work and Protest: A Century of U.S. Women’s Labor History, ed. Ruth Milkman. New York: Routledge, 1985.

Bell examines public sector unionism across the nation—both its rise and its status in the mid-1980s. Bell concludes that “unionized public-sector women are at the forefront of the fight for improved employment conditions for women.” (296) This situation, Bell argues, did not arise “from a long-range strategy on the part of public-sector unions. Rather, it is the unexpected consequence of the vast influx of women into the growing number of government jobs, and the effects of the complex relationship between the trade union, civil rights and women’s movements.” (296) Consequently, Bell continues, that even “in spite of budget-cuts, the public sector has become a central arena for addressing women’s issues.” (296-297)

Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis. School in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011.

“Many recent books on education and schooling examine small pieces of the system to suggest improvements–teacher training and practice, assessments, school design and management, and the like. No book has ever taken on the systemic forces at work in modern education systems like Schooling in Capitalist America and suggested that a radical transformation of society is required to improve schools.” (description from Haymarket website)

Burns, Joe. Strike Back: Using the Militant Tactics of Labor’s Past to Reignite Public Sector Unionism Today. Ig Publishing, 2014.

“During the 1960s and 1970s, teachers, sanitation workers and many other public employees rose up to demand collective bargaining rights in one of the greatest upsurges in labor history. These workers were able to transform the nature of public employment, winning union recognition for millions and ultimately forcing reluctant politicians to pass laws allowing for collective bargaining and even the right to strike. Strike Back uncovers this history of militancy to provide tactics for a new generation of public employees facing unprecedented attacks on their labor rights.” (Description from http://igpub.com/strike-back/)

Bussell, Bob. PowerPoint presentations on public sector unionism.  See Graphs/charts tab above for these.

“We Are One”: Protecting and Defending the Public Sector.” 2011. Explores the history of attacks on Public Sector workers.“Neither New Nor Normal”: The Politics of Economic Injustice and the Roots of Union Renewal, December 2012. Connects union struggles in the public sectors to attacks on private sector

Compton, Mary and Lois Weiner, eds. The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and Their Unions: Stories for Resistance. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.

Compton and Weiner have gathered together this collection of essays that examine neoliberal education policies from nations around the world, including United Kingdom, South Africa, China, Mexico, West Indies, United States, Namibia, India, Australia, Denmark, Canada, Brazil, and Germany. Compton and Weiner explain that “teacher trade unionists are grappling with the increasing privatization of education services,” which generally consist of, “the introduction of business ‘quality control’ measures into education, and the requirement that education produce the kind of minimally trained and flexible workforce that corporations require to maximize their profits.” (5) And while “the titles and acronyms of policies differ from one country to another,” they continue, “the basics of the assault are the same: undercut the publicly supported, publicly controlled system of education, teachers’ professionalism, and teacher unions as organizations.” (4) Compton and Weiner point out that, unfortunately, the “voices for privatization and neoliberalism have virtually the whole of the world’s media at their disposal to speed them on their way.” (6) “Ironically,” however, Compton and Weiner remind teachers that “the potential power of teachers and our unions to derail neoliberal reforms like privatization is often more apparent to our opponents than it is to teachers and union leadership.” (7) For Compton and Weiner, this means teachers need to be aware of the obstacles they face, but they should also realize the power they have to create positive changes.

Susan L. Robertson’s essay, “‘Remaking the World’: Neoliberalism and the Transformation of Education and Teachers’ Labor,” provides an excellent historical background for the development of neoliberal policies across the globe, including an explanation of the term “neoliberal.”

Dannin, Ellen. “The Long History of Privatization Failures,” Portside Online, October 23, 2013. https://portside.org/2013-10-24/long-history-privatization-failures

“We need to own up to is that privatization experiments, based on ideology rather than evidence, have created disruption, neglect, and harm to vital public services and infrastructure – and those effects have undermined the private sector which depends on high quality public services. We seem to have forgotten that the public sector has long created the environment and resources necessary for businesses to prosper.” (summary from Portside website)

Fraser, Steve and Joshua B. Freeman. “In the Rearview Mirror: A Brief History of Opposition to Public Sector Unionism,” New Labor Forum 20 (3): 93-96 Fall 2011

One of the best brief reviews of this history.

Giroux, Henry A. Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014.

“Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education reveals how neoliberal policies, practices, and modes of material and symbolic violence have radically reshaped the mission and practice of higher education, short-changing a generation of young people.Giroux exposes the corporate forces at play and charts a clear-minded and inspired course of action out of the shadows of market-driven education policy. Championing the youth around the globe who have dared to resist the bartering of their future, he calls upon public intellectuals—as well as all people concerned about the future of democracy—to speak out and defend the university as a site of critical learning and democratic promise.” (description from Haymarket website: http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Neoliberalisms-War-on-Higher-Education)

Gude, Shawn and Bhaskar Sunkara. Class Action: An Activist Teacher’s Handbook. New York: Jacobin Foundation, 2014. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/class-action-an-activist-teachers-handbook/

In this collection of essays, various writers, teachers, scholars, and activists explore so many issues related to the nation’s education system, especially the threat privatization poses to public education. One author examines the “school-to-prison pipeline.” In a section entitled “Running from Superman” (a reference to Davis Guggenheim’s documentary Waiting for “Superman”), numerous authors explore the many facets of the neoliberal school “reform” efforts: Teach For America, the business model of education, funding from big-business philanthropists like Bill Gates, and charter schools. Many articles explain the success of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), under the leadership of Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (CORE), which came from mobilizing the rank-and-file membership, uniting with district parents and community members against school closings and other neoliberal policies. These various authors hold up the CTU as an example of effective organizing, one that “has indeed distinguished itself as neoliberal school-reformers’ most implacable foe.” (30-31) The contributors to this book intend for it “to be useful to those engaged in struggle—used for tabling and flyering, fuel for reading groups and public debate.” (5) So please read it and help spread the word!

Law, Justin. The Courts Vs. Teacher Unionism” and supporting documents

This is a blog for the LAWCHA site. It now includes links to specific source documents on legal rulings in the Chicago Teachers court cases so that we can trace how legal frameworks circumscribed and circumvented teacher rights.

Lichtenstein, Nelson. A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics, and Labor. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

In this collection of essays, Lichtenstein’s central point is that “intellectuals…play a decisive role in shaping the way men and women see the social and economic world in which they live.” (2) All of these essays, therefore, explore the intellectuals, along with the ideas they created, across the political spectrum in disputes involving organized labor. In one essay entitled “Bashing Public Employees and Their Unions,” Lichtenstein investigates the ideas used against public sector unionism, mostly by conservatives but also by liberals. Lichtenstein warns that “it would be a mistake to see the GOP offensive against the [public sector] unions as some kind of hasty and ill-planned gambit. The rhetoric and legislative program of politicians like [Wisconsin Governor Scott] Walker…refracts a multi-decade effort by conservatives—in politics, academia, think tanks, and management—designed to eviscerate trade unionism so that it will, in effect, simply wither away.” (197) Far from being mere opportunism, the “collective organization of workers, private or public,” continues Lichtenstein, “stands athwart [conservatives’] vision of how markets should work and the polity should function. (197-198)

Throughout this long history, Lichtenstein identifies three main types of arguments used against public sector unions, all of which were designed to “delegitimize a collective voice for public employees and divorce their interest from that of the larger public good.” (198) The first type of argument, which held most sway from 1919 (the year of the Boston Police strike) into the 1950s, claimed that “collective bargaining by workers in the public sector undercuts the sovereignty of government.” (198) From the 1950s into the 1980s, the second type of argument advanced the idea that “public sector unionism makes government too expensive and sets a standard that private industry cannot meet.” (198) Since the 1980s, a third type of argument progressively gained strength, one that “asserts that public sector unions are bad not because they undermine the sovereignty of the state, but because they sustain it, especially insofar as the state, at either the local or national levels, creates a set of public goods, like education, infrastructure, health care, and even public safety, that conservatives seek to either abolish or privatize.” (198)

Lichtenstein concludes the essay by pointing out the seriousness of conservatives’ commitment to undermining public sector unions and the inherent value of public sector unions: “Although conservatives are wrong to think that in recent decades public sector unions have created a bloated and corrupt welfare state, their hostility is nevertheless well founded because these institutions do in fact stand athwart the increasingly libertarian, neoliberal agenda that so many on the right advocates. Trade unions oppose the fragmentation of the public school system, they fight the privatizations of municipal services, they sustain the Democratic Party, and they politicize and mobilize voters who would otherwise remain alienated and voiceless.” (206)

Lipman, Pauline. The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. New York: Routledge, 2011.

Lipman looks at Chicago as a neoliberal “laboratory,” which she says is “driven by market ideologies and the regulatory power of global finance.” Lipman argues that “education is both shaped by and deeply implicated in globalized political, economic, and ideological processes that have been redefining cities over the past 25 years.” (3) As pervasive as the neoliberal mindset may seem, Lipman claims, the “current failure of markets and deregulation has brought to the fore weaknesses of the neoliberal strategy, creating an opening for alternative progressive agendas and alliances.” (10) Lipman also explains many key aspects of neoliberal ideology. In the neoliberal worldview, says Lipman, education is considered a “private good, an investment one makes in one’s child or oneself to ‘add value’ to better compete in the labor market, not a social good for development of individuals and society as a whole.” (14-15) In one of her chapters, Lipman explores the roots of “school choice” to better understand why these neoliberal policies appeal to so many “teachers and parents, particularly parents of color, who are fed up with the failures of public schools to educate their children appropriately.” (21) In order to create an alternative vision to neoliberalism, claims Lipman, we need to better appreciate its power.

Lyons, John F. “Regional Variations in Union Activism of American Public Schoolteachers” in Education and the Great Depression: Lessons from a Global History, E. Thomas Ewing and David Hicks, eds. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

Lyons explores the reasons why so few teachers established unions in the United States. Some scholars, Lyons explains, attribute this limited amount of teacher unionism to a simple urban-rural divide: since so many teachers came from rural areas, they were not inclined to unionize while urban private-sector workers were. Other researchers, Lyons continues, claim that few teachers unionized because teachers “adhered to an ideology of professionalism,” which supposedly led teachers “to reject labor unions and militant industrial action.” (20) By comparing Depression-era Chicago to other areas around the country, Lyons finds that the mystery of teacher unionism is “more complex” than just the urban-rural divide or professionalism. As illustrated in the Chicago case, Lyons argues that the key factors that helped “teacher militancy and unionism flourish” are the “existence of a strong private sector labor movement, a tradition of teacher unionism, the acceptance of labor organizations by political elites and school administrators, and the greater social freedom of the large school systems.” (34)

Lyons also shows the long tradition of politicians’ and employers’ opposition to teacher unionism. Lyons explains that already by the 1910s, “presidents, governors, mayors, and judges argued” that in “a representative democracy,” “the will of the people was vested in elected officials who acted in the ‘public interest,’ and answered to the electorate. For public officials to recognize public sector unions, to bargain over conditions with them, or to allow them to strike, would require the public employer to share its decision-making authority with unelected people and violate the sovereignty of the government and the democratic will of the people.” (22)

Lyons also includes a concise comparative history of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) by explaining the two organizations’ foundings and their original purposes, along with the AFT’s relationship to Chicago and the Chicago Teachers’ Federation. (pages 20 through 22)

Mader, Jackie. “Teachers Unions’ Rise: A Look At Union Impact Over The Years,” Huffington Post, September 20, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/teachers-unions-rise-a-lo_n_1900130.html

This article offers a brief timeline of teachers’ unions and associations in the United States, from the founding of the National Education Association in 1857 to the present.

Maynard, Melissa. “Public Strikes Explained: Why There Aren’t More of Them.” Stateline. September 25, 2012. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2012/09/25/public-strikes-explained-why-there-arent-more-of-them

Maynard provides simple, direct answers to very important questions, such as “How do public sector strikes differ from strikes by private sector workers?” and “Why do teachers strike more often than other public employees?” To answer these questions, Maynard explains the significance of state laws, public opinion, and economic factors. In doing so, Maynard also offers a brief glimpse of the history of public sector collective bargaining and some idea on how to potentially move forward.

McBride, Bill. “Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama,” Calculated Risk Blog, December 10, 2013. http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/12/public-and-private-sector-payroll-jobs.html

McBride created two line graphs that show the gains and losses of public and private sector employment under these five presidents.

McCartin, Joseph A. “Convenient Scapegoats: Public Workers Under Assault,” Dissent. Spring 2011. McCartin, Joseph A. “‘A Wagner Act for Public Employees’: Labor’s Deferred Dream and the Rise of Conservatism, 1970-1976.” Journal of American History 95:1 (June 2008), pp. 123-148.

McCartin tells the national story of efforts by public sector unionists to achieve federal rights to collectively bargain, like the ones their private sector counterparts secured in 1935. McCartin describes the hopes of public sector labor leaders and how close they came to success. Yet, because of a resurgent business community, economic slowdown, leery municipal governments, and divisions within the labor movement, public sector labor failed to achieve its federal protections. Indeed, public sector labor’s activism helped to develop a growing conservative movement across the country in the 1970s.

McCartin, Joseph. “Public Sector Unions and Worker Rights in Wisconsin” interview on “History for the Future.” March 1, 2011.

In this interview, McCartin explains the history of the public sector labor movement and its relation to the private sector labor movement, showing the parallels and differences. McCartin describes the factors that led to public sector unionism rapid upsurge in the 1960s and early 1970s, which he compares to private sector unionism’s gains in the 1930s. Public sector union growth, says McCartin, had much to do with the era’s Civil Rights Movement, since both movements held overlapping goals to overturn second-class citizenship. McCartin also provides a list of factors that placed strict limits on public sector unionism’s continued expansion in the late 1970s, including budget shortfalls, rising unemployment and inflation, and a conservative resurgence. McCartin pays special attention to Wisconsin and teachers.

Murphy, Marjorie. “Militancy in Many Forms: Teacher Strikes and Urban Insurrection, 1967-1974” in Aaron Brenner, Robert Brenner, and Cal Winslow, eds. Rebel Rank and File: Labor Militancy and Revolt from Below in the Long 1970s. London: Verso, 2010.

Murphy explains that public school teacher “militancy appeared suddenly in the late 1960s, though the movement for teacher unionism was quite mature, dating to the early twentieth century. Like the rank-and-file militancy in other sectors, teacher activism drew some of its strength from a new, younger workforce, very much dedicated to the social issues of the day, including desegregation and ending the war in Vietnam.” (229) “Often, across the country,” Murphy continues, “teacher unions and civil rights leaders could find common cause, or at least avoid conflict. In several large urban settings, however, the rise of Black Power, particularly its separatist tendency, led to a series of complicated confrontations between African American activists and militant teachers, with tragic results.” (229) Murphy concludes that the “narrative of teacher militancy is a complex one, but it helps to explain how public employee unionism in this period cannot be separated from the urban rebellion, and how the inability of the two to come together played a key role in breaking apart the labor-civil rights coalition that [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] dreamed about.” (248)

Murphy also locates the “origins of the school choice and its complement, privatization” back in 1968, in the midst of these conflicts. (247) “As African Americans demanded control over their schools,” Murphy explains, “many conservative pundits and politicians quickly realized that such demands could be accommodated without much cost or inconvenience to their core constituents in the lily-white suburbs. Instead of busing to achieve integration, African Americans could control their neighborhood schools, which were doomed to underfunded status given the urban tax base. Suburban schools, meanwhile, would prosper free of the burden of educating the city’s children. It is no coincidence that school choice and privatization are most often touted for urban schools, not the suburbs.” (247-248)

Murphy, Marjorie. Blackboard Unions: The AFT and the NEA, 1900-1980. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

In a national examination of the AFT and the NEA from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1980s, Murphy attempts to explain “the historical obstacles to the unionization of public school teachers, to show how difficult organization was, and to illustrate the contradictions faced by public employees in unionization.” (1) Murphy also explains the tension between unionism and professionalism in teachers’ organizations: “The ideology of professionalism in education grew into a powerful antiunion slogan that effectively paralyzed and then slowed the unionization of teachers. Only in the last twenty years have teachers effectively challenged the confining definitions of professionalism to declare that their own personal well-being was in fact a professional concern.” (1-2) To that end, Murphy explores the transformation of the NEA, which originally “claimed exclusive jurisdiction in professionalism” but now “rather prides itself on being called a union.” (2) The AFT, Murphy explains, always “held stubbornly to its trade-union heritage.” (2) Murphy also identifies fiscal crises and “recurrent red-baiting” as repeated obstacles to teacher unionism. (3)

Naison, Mark. Badass Teachers Unite!: Writing on Education, History, and Youth Activism. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014.

“This collection of important and much needed essays on education and youth activism draws from Naison’s research on Bronx History and his experiences defending teachers and students from school reform policies which undermine their power and creativity. Naison’s focus is identifying teaching and organizing strategies that have worked effectively in New York, and could be implemented in impoverished communities elsewhere.” (description from Haymarket website: http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Badass-Teachers-Unite)

Peterson, Bob and Michael Charney, eds. Transforming Teacher Unions: Fighting for Better Schools and Social Justice. Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools, 1999.

“This stimulating anthology looks at exemplary practices of teacher unions from the local to national level. It challenges the reader, while presenting stirring new visions for the 21st century that involve teacher unions in the fight to improve public schools and conditions of social justice throughout our communities. The 25 articles weave together issues of teacher unions, classroom reform, and the rights of all children to a free, equitable, and high-quality public education.” (back cover)

“Too often,” Peterson and Charney admit, “teacher unions—like public education itself—have had a mixed record on fighting for an equitable and quality education for all children.” (5) “in order to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” they propose, “that teacher unions must embark on a new path.” (5) For Peterson and Charney, teacher unions must “be both professional and social justice in orientation,” instead of the predominantly professional emphasis of so many teacher unions. Peterson and Charney further explain that “no matter how successful any set of professional reforms may be, they will fall short of ensuring that ‘all children can learn’ unless the social inequalities that face our children are also overcome. Schools can do more and do better, but they can’t do it all. And if we proclaim that any one set of professional reforms or standards or even increased school funding will ensure that all our children learn, we are setting ourselves up for failure—and ultimately opening up our unions and public education to attack by the right.” (7)

“Rethinking Schools is a not-for-profit educational publisher. Its quarterly publication, Rethinking Schools, is a well-respected grassroots journal for public school reform.” (back cover)

Shaffer, Robert. “Where Are the Organized Public Employees? The Absence of Public Employee Unionism from U.S. History Textbooks, and Why It Matters.” Labor History 43:3 (2002), pp. 315-334.

After investigating many prominent U.S. history textbooks, Shaffer proclaims that he was “at first surprised, and soon appalled, at the absence … of any mention of the upsurge in public employee unionism in the 1960s and 1970s.” (315) As Shaffer argues, public sector labor figures prominently in nearly all post-World War II U.S. history—especially in politics and the economy—despite its absence in textbooks. Further, public sector unionism, says Shaffer, is intimately linked to “the civil rights movement, the [New Left] student movement, the feminist movement, and the questioning of the established order normally associated with the 1960s.” (321) In his conclusion, Shaffer offers some much-needed advice to educators and labor: “If college textbooks continue to promote the image of a union member as simply an industrial, construction, or agricultural worker, then we will have failed in preparing our students for their own potential relationship to or participation in the labor movement.” (333)

Shierholz, Heidi. “The Teacher Gap: More Students and Fewer Teacher,” Portside Online, October 23, 2013. https://portside.org/2013-10-26/teacher-gap-more-students-and-fewer-teachers

Shierholz’s final assessment: “A ‘teacher gap’ of this magnitude means not only larger class sizes, but also fewer teacher aides, fewer extracurricular activities, and a narrower curriculum for our children. Furthermore, this number almost surely understates the real gap. Between 2008 and 2012, the share of children living in poverty increased from 19.0 percent to 21.8 percent. A higher incidence of child poverty increases the need for services provided through schools. Instead of meeting this need by hiring more personnel, public schools have been forced to eliminate jobs.”

Tyack, David B. The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Tyack uses public schools to examine the transition in the United States from a rural society to an urban one from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. He explains how urban school systems grew increasingly bureaucratic and designed on corporate models in the name of efficiency and claimed to be above politics. These claims, says Tyack, “often served to obscure actual alignments of power and patterns of privilege.” (11) All along, teachers fought to gain better control over the curriculum, and sometimes this effort put teachers at odds with the broader struggle for social justice. Tyack concludes that to “create urban schools which really teach students, which reflect the pluralism of society, which serve the quest for social justice—this is a task which will take persistent imagination, wisdom, and will.” (291)

National Education Association (NEA)

Cole, Stephan. The Unionization of Teachers: A Case Study of the UFT. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969.

Cole explains the unionization efforts of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) New York City local, comparing them to the National Education Association (NEA). In doing so, Cole finds that the AFT was much more committed to collective bargaining over salary—what Cole defines as “unionization”—and the NEA was more committed to “professionalization” because its leadership originally refused to use strikes and focused on making teachers appear more professional like doctors and lawyers. Cole often treats unionism and professionalism as mutually exclusive. Many teachers also viewed them as irreconcilable, and this conflict persists today. From Cole’s vantage point in 1969, AFT’s unionism seemed an unlikely vehicle for professionalization. Yet from this negative forecast, Cole managed to formulate an incredibly accurate prediction: “the existence of organizations such as the UFT will force the NEA to become increasingly militant and to abandon its archaic conservative ideology: A militant professional association committed to fighting for economic and professional goals would probably do more to improve the quality of American education that a union that gives organizational goals priority over professional ones.” (183)

Gaffney, Dennis. Teachers United: The Rise of New York State United Teachers. State University of New York Press, 2007.

Gaffney explored the rise of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), an AFT affiliate, which resulted from the merger of the New York State Teachers Association (NYSTA), affiliated with the NEA, and the United Teachers of New York (UTNY), another AFT affiliate. Gaffney notes that like other NEA affiliates, the NYSTA remained committed to professionalism. Consequently, they were very reluctant to engage in collective bargaining, acting as a union, or even using union terminology—let alone initiating strikes. Yet the New York City teachers, with their strikes and general militancy, both inspired NYSTA teachers and helped overturn the legal barriers to collective bargaining. Even after NYSTA teachers realized they could collectively bargain, they still hesitated to abandon their traditional roles as professionals. However, when upstate teachers began asking for salary increases in the late 1960s and their school boards resisted, Gaffney argues that NYSTA teachers truly learned the value of unionism, and they began embracing union action. To demonstrate their profound shift, the NYSTA merged with the UTNY in 1972 to form the NYSUT, under the aegis of the AFT, which had traditionally symbolized teacher unionism.

Indiana State Teachers Association. “Advancing the Cause of Education”: A History of the Indiana State Teachers Association, 1854-2004. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2004.

This book tells the 150-year history of the ISTA by explaining the organization’s three main eras. The first time period is from 1854, when the ISTA was founded, and 1938. During this time period, the “ISTA evolved from a loosely run but committed cadre of educators to a professional association.” (5) During the second era, from 1938 to 1971, Robert H. Wyatt led the ISTA, and his “persona defined the organization.” (35) Under his leadership, “Wyatt transformed ISTA from one of the associations that influenced the course of education in Indiana into the association that did so.” (35) The third time period, called the era of “new advocacy,” spanned from 1971 to 2004, when the ISTA changed “from a professional lobbying organization of individual members to a statewide union of local teacher associations.” (67) “Collective bargaining, teachers’ rights, working conditions, and, of course, salaries dominated ISTA’s agenda in these years.” (67)

Kink, Steve and John Cahill. Class Wars: The Story of the Washington Education Association, 1965-2001. Federal Way, WA: Washington Education Association, 2004.

Kink and Cahill examine the Washington Education Association (WEA), NEA affiliate, beginning in 1965. Kink and Cahill explain that WEA adopted the Unified Service (UniServe) system from NEA proposals in 1970. The UniServe system provided professional union organizers to NEA locals to help them collectively bargain. UniServe helped to greatly empower rural districts, since they had traditionally been subjected to greater domination by administrators. Many rural districts across Washington used their new-found assertiveness to demand salary increases during a period of recession in the early 1970s. When school boards did not grant the concessions, many WEA locals went on strike. One strike in 1973 in Elma, Washington got particularly heated as the school board used strikebreakers to end the strike, and members of Elma’s WEA local employed civil disobedience tactics by attempting to block school buses with their bodies. The Elma strike ended after only one week, with the school board emerging victorious. Although this particular strike failed, many others proved successful, and WEA went on to enjoy the peak of its power from 1976 to 1980.

Karpinski, Carol F. “A Visible Company of Professionals”: African Americans and the National Education Association During the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

Karpinski pays special attention to the NEA’s merger with the African-American teachers’ organization, the American Teachers Association (ATA), in 1966. She notes how the ATA members and leadership vigorously debated about whether they should join the NEA or the AFT, trying to decide which organization would best advance their interests. In an effort to win against its rival, the NEA implemented some reforms regarding its racial policies and began to market itself as racially progressive. Despite some disappointments and slow reforms, Karpinski shows that the NEA became committed to racial justice.

Murphy, Marjorie. Blackboard Unions: The AFT and the NEA, 1900-1980. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

In a national examination of the AFT and the NEA from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1980s, Murphy attempts to explain “the historical obstacles to the unionization of public school teachers, to show how difficult organization was, and to illustrate the contradictions faced by public employees in unionization.” (1) Murphy also explains the tension between unionism and professionalism in teachers’ organizations: “The ideology of professionalism in education grew into a powerful antiunion slogan that effectively paralyzed and then slowed the unionization of teachers. Only in the last twenty years have teachers effectively challenged the confining definitions of professionalism to declare that their own personal well-being was in fact a professional concern.” (1-2) To that end, Murphy explores the transformation of the NEA, which originally “claimed exclusive jurisdiction in professionalism” but now “rather prides itself on being called a union.” (2) The AFT, Murphy explains, always “held stubbornly to its trade-union heritage.” (2) Murphy also identifies fiscal crises and “recurrent red-baiting” as repeated obstacles to teacher unionism. (3)

Urban, Wayne J. “Courting the Woman Teacher: The National Education Association, 1917-1970.” History of Education Quarterly 41:2 (2001), pp. 139-166.

In examining the NEA’s organizational structure during the twentieth century, Urban argues “that from 1917 until 1972 the association enjoyed a relatively symbiotic relationship with women teachers.” (140) Urban insists this was definitely not an equal relationship. He further points out that this “symbiotic relationship” had “limits set by the NEA’s fundamental organizational commitments, symbolized rhetorically by the association’s devotion to the term ‘professionalism,’ and grounded in a consistent antipathy to the teachers’ union.” (140) Despite these limits, Urban claims, “there were spaces where women teachers were honored and respected,” and the NEA’s female teachers appreciated this attention. (141) As examples of the NEA’s protection of female teachers, Urban offers the NEA’s “pursuit of the single-salary scale and its defense of the married woman teacher.” (141) Finally, Urban argues that in 1972, when the NEA formally amended its constitution to exclude administrators and embrace unionism, the NEA’s emphasis on “collective bargaining and trade unionism substantially diminished the association’s commitment to the cause of women teachers.” (141)

_________. Gender, Race, and the National Education Association: Professionalism and Its Limitations. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2000.

Urban adds the themes of gender and professionalism to his analysis of the NEA and race. Urban argues that from 1917 to the 1960s, the NEA based its organization and policies on a feminine conception of professionalism, since its membership was mostly comprised of rural women. Beginning in the 1960s, however, with a greater influx of young, urban, militant male teachers, the NEA embraced unionism. In order to compete for members with the AFT’s well-established unionism, Urban argues, the NEA both downplayed its feminine professionalism and offered its promise of unionism to African Americans. This phase lasted into the early 1990s, when new NEA leadership sought to establish a “new unionism” that aimed to meld professionalism and unionism to address the changed needs of that era. As most scholars note, the NEA-AFT rivalry for membership produced changes in attitudes and policies in both national organizations and their affiliates, which often led to tense relations with their surroundings—even outright strikes.

_________. Why Teachers Organized. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982.

Urban examines both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and some of their local affiliates around the country—primarily Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City—from the 1890s through the 1920s. Urban demonstrates that “teachers represented in microcosm the ongoing transition from farm to city that affected many aspects of American life during the Progressive Era.” (17) Urban claims that teachers during this time period organized for two primary reasons: “First, teachers organized to pursue material improvements, salaries, pensions, tenure, and other benefits and policies which helped raise teaching in the cities to the status of a career for the women who practiced it. Second, through the pursuit of salary scales and other policies, teachers sought to institutionalize experience, or seniority, as the criterion of success in teaching.” Urban further claims that both these factors are still very influential in teacher organizing, since teachers carefully guard them, and this has “inhibited effective organizational activity in the past.” (22 and 174)Urban also offers two useful cautions about the effects of union structure. First, Urban observes that leaders “of modern large-membership teachers’ unions devote most of their time to complex, time-consuming tasks, such as bargaining and handling grievances, leaving themselves little time and less inclination to allow meaningful member participation in setting goals and planning strategies.” (174) He further notes that the “bargaining process also imposes a powerful personal discipline on local leaders, making the emergence of politically reformist or radical leaders like Margaret Haley or Henry Linville less and less likely. The evolution of Albert Shanker of New York City from a social democrat … to a tough-minded, powerful, pragmatic unionist serves as a case in point.” (176)

American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Cole, Stephan. The Unionization of Teachers: A Case Study of the UFT. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969.

Cole explains the unionization efforts of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) New York City local, comparing them to the National Education Association (NEA). In doing so, Cole finds that the AFT was much more committed to collective bargaining over salary—what Cole defines as “unionization”—and the NEA was more committed to “professionalization” because its leadership originally refused to use strikes and focused on making teachers appear more professional like doctors and lawyers. Cole often treats unionism and professionalism as mutually exclusive. Many teachers also viewed them as irreconcilable, and this conflict persists today. From Cole’s vantage point in 1969, AFT’s unionism seemed an unlikely vehicle for professionalization. Yet from this negative forecast, Cole managed to formulate an incredibly accurate prediction: “the existence of organizations such as the UFT will force the NEA to become increasingly militant and to abandon its archaic conservative ideology: A militant professional association committed to fighting for economic and professional goals would probably do more to improve the quality of American education that a union that gives organizational goals priority over professional ones.” (183)

Eaton, William Edward. The American Federation of Teachers, 1916-1961: A History of the Movement. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1975.

The American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) tense relationship with the NEA is important for Eaton, since it pushed the AFT toward a closer affiliation with organized labor and the union model. Eaton points out that the AFT mostly suffered from problems within the organization itself. Eaton argues that the AFT largely operates with a “crisis orientation” because the organization is well equipped to fight against immediate threats but often lacks the ability to maintain long-term relations. (179) The AFT’s dues, claims Eaton, were too low, which prevented the organization from communicating effectively and exercising its power. Eaton also mentions the persistent problems of regionalism, religion, and ethnicity that often divided the national membership. Eaton notes that while the AFT has a relatively small membership, it has been an influential organization. From his perspective in 1975, Eaton could see the growing rift between teachers and union members of the private sector, who seemed reluctant to pay increased taxes to support public schools.

Gaffney, Dennis. Teachers United: The Rise of New York State United Teachers. State University of New York Press, 2007.

Gaffney explored the rise of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), an AFT affiliate, which resulted from the merger of the New York State Teachers Association (NYSTA), affiliated with the NEA, and the United Teachers of New York (UTNY), another AFT affiliate. Gaffney notes that like other NEA affiliates, the NYSTA remained committed to professionalism. Consequently, they were very reluctant to engage in collective bargaining, acting as a union, or even using union terminology—let alone initiating strikes. Yet the New York City teachers, with their strikes and general militancy, both inspired NYSTA teachers and helped overturn the legal barriers to collective bargaining. Even after NYSTA teachers realized they could collectively bargain, they still hesitated to abandon their traditional roles as professionals. However, when upstate teachers began asking for salary increases in the late 1960s and their school boards resisted, Gaffney argues that NYSTA teachers truly learned the value of unionism, and they began embracing union action. To demonstrate their profound shift, the NYSTA merged with the UTNY in 1972 to form the NYSUT, under the aegis of the AFT, which had traditionally symbolized teacher unionism.

Golin, Steve. The Newark Teacher Strike: Hopes on the Line. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Golin argues that the Newark teachers’ union, which was predominantly white ethnics (Jews and Italians) and an AFT affiliate, fused 1930s-style unionism with a 1960s social consciousness in their quest for “teacher power,” the right for teachers to have greater control over their workplace. This new, reinvigorated idea about class that combined blue-collar unionism with professionalism, animated both teachers’ strikes in Newark. Between the two strikes, a black mayor took office in Newark, and he appointed a black majority in the city’s board of education. When the teachers went on strike in 1971, the board and the city government could align with black parents against what they claimed was a white teachers’ union. As part of their assertion of professionalism, the Newark teachers demanded they no longer perform chores they deemed unprofessional. Since these tasks were then given to black non-teachers, it helped draw the racial lines more clearly. This racial alliance helped the board, city government, and largely black parents win against the predominantly white union.

Kahlenberg, Richard D. Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Because of Albert Shanker’s roles as “a father of modern teachers’ unions,” influential education reformer,” and an “advocate of tough liberalism,” Kahlenberg bestows great significance to Shanker’s career: “If Horace Mann was the key educational figure in the nineteenth century and John Dewey in the first half of the twentieth century, Albert Shanker has stood as the most influential figure since then. As a critical thinker, writer, and player in all the great education debates of the last quarter century—whether school vouchers, charter schools, or education standards—he was, journalist Sara Mosle argues, ‘our Dewey.’” (7) Kahlenberg explains that “Shanker believed in what might be called ‘tough liberalism,’ an ideology that champions an affirmative role for government in promoting social mobility, social cohesion, and greater equality at home and democracy abroad, but which is also tough-minded about human nature, the way the world works, and the reality of evil. He remained, to the end, a liberal, and over a thirty-year period he stood squarely for two central pillars of liberal thought: public education and organized labor.” (8) Because Shanker’s “tough liberalism” was composed of both “conservative” and “liberal” values, it seems to be inconsistent contradictory and outdated. But, Kahlenberg points out that “Shanker argued that tough liberalism was not only consistent but was also politically attractive, because it addressed the central vulnerabilities of liberalism, which since the 1960s has been seen as soft, elitist, politically correct, and out of touch with the way the world works.” (10) And “as contemporary American liberalism struggles both for intellectual coherence and political viability,” Kalenberg continues, “Albert Shanker’s life reminds us that there is an alternative tough liberal tradition wholly worthy of reviving.” (11)

Lyons, John F. “Regional Variations in Union Activism of American Public Schoolteachers” in Education and the Great Depression: Lessons from a Global History, E. Thomas Ewing and David Hicks, eds. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

Lyons explores the reasons why so few teachers established unions in the United States. Some scholars, Lyons explains, attribute this limited amount of teacher unionism to a simple urban-rural divide: since so many teachers came from rural areas, they were not inclined to unionize while urban private-sector workers were. Other researchers, Lyons continues, claim that few teachers unionized because teachers “adhered to an ideology of professionalism,” which supposedly led teachers “to reject labor unions and militant industrial action.” (20) By comparing Depression-era Chicago to other areas around the country, Lyons finds that the mystery of teacher unionism is “more complex” than just the urban-rural divide or professionalism. As illustrated in the Chicago case, Lyons argues that the key factors that helped “teacher militancy and unionism flourish” are the “existence of a strong private sector labor movement, a tradition of teacher unionism, the acceptance of labor organizations by political elites and school administrators, and the greater social freedom of the large school systems.” (34)

Lyons also shows the long tradition of politicians’ and employers’ opposition to teacher unionism. Lyons explains that already by the 1910s, “presidents, governors, mayors, and judges argued” that in “a representative democracy,” “the will of the people was vested in elected officials who acted in the ‘public interest,’ and answered to the electorate. For public officials to recognize public sector unions, to bargain over conditions with them, or to allow them to strike, would require the public employer to share its decision-making authority with unelected people and violate the sovereignty of the government and the democratic will of the people.” (22)

Lyons also includes a concise comparative history of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) by explaining the two organizations’ foundings and their original purposes, along with the AFT’s relationship to Chicago and the Chicago Teachers’ Federation. (pages 20 through 22)

Mirel, Jeffrey. The Rise and Fall of an Urban School System: Detroit, 1907-81. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999.

Mirel explains that the “history of the Detroit Public Schools…offers a unique opportunity to explore the rise and fall of a great urban school district. Virtually every major educational reform and innovation of the twentieth century took root and flourished in Detroit.” (xiv) Mirel’s book is about the many individuals and organizations that influenced Detroit’s public school system. But some segments of the book are especially relevant to teacher unionism in that city:
  • The section entitled “Teacher Unionism and Educational Conflict” is about the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) original unionization (111-124).
  • The section entitled “The Road to Financial Ruin” is about the circumstances surrounding a DFT strike in 1967 (313-326).
  • The section entitled “From Decentralization to Recentralization, 1971-1981” is about the circumstances surrounding another DFT strike in 1973 (359-370).

Murphy, Marjorie. Blackboard Unions: The AFT and the NEA, 1900-1980. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

In a national examination of the AFT and the NEA from the turn of the twentieth century through the 1980s, Murphy attempts to explain “the historical obstacles to the unionization of public school teachers, to show how difficult organization was, and to illustrate the contradictions faced by public employees in unionization.” (1) Murphy also explains the tension between unionism and professionalism in teachers’ organizations: “The ideology of professionalism in education grew into a powerful antiunion slogan that effectively paralyzed and then slowed the unionization of teachers. Only in the last twenty years have teachers effectively challenged the confining definitions of professionalism to declare that their own personal well-being was in fact a professional concern.” (1-2) To that end, Murphy explores the transformation of the NEA, which originally “claimed exclusive jurisdiction in professionalism” but now “rather prides itself on being called a union.” (2) The AFT, Murphy explains, always “held stubbornly to its trade-union heritage.” (2) Murphy also identifies fiscal crises and “recurrent red-baiting” as repeated obstacles to teacher unionism. (3)

Perlstein, Daniel H. Justice, Justice: School Politics and the Eclipse of Liberalism. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

Perlstein examines the infamous Ocean Hill-Brownsville (a school district in New York City) teachers’ strike of 1968. Perlstein argues that the predominantly Jewish United Federation of Teachers (UFT) felt an interracial working-class solidarity with their black students. Yet UFT members also felt that their professional expertise, along with those of the white administrators, offered the best path to racial equality. The UFT’s position was largely acceptable until Black Power pointed out the systemic nature of discrimination. At this point, Perlstein contends, the predominantly black Ocean Hill-Brownsville community viewed the UFT’s stance as insufficient and condescending—and worse: their dominance by white “experts” perpetuated inequality. As Perlstein shows, the bitter strike realigned New York City’s politics and reshaped ideas of race and class, since the Jewish UFT teachers became fully “white” and middle-class and began to shift their electoral allegiance to the conservative camp. Additionally, this incident spoiled the UFT’s and AFT’s reputation as civil rights advocates, which offered the opportunity for the NEA to pick up that standard.

Podair, Jerald E. The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

Podair examines the infamous Ocean Hill-Brownsville (a school district in New York City) teachers’ strike of 1968. Podair argues that the predominantly Jewish United Federation of Teachers (UFT) felt an interracial working-class solidarity with their black students. Yet UFT members also felt that their professional expertise, along with those of the white administrators, offered the best path to racial equality. The UFT’s position was largely acceptable until Black Power pointed out the systemic nature of discrimination. At this point, Podair contends, the predominantly black Ocean Hill-Brownsville community viewed the UFT’s stance as insufficient and condescending—and worse: their dominance by white “experts” perpetuated inequality. As Podair shows, the bitter strike realigned New York City’s politics and reshaped ideas of race and class, since the Jewish UFT teachers became fully “white” and middle-class and began to shift their electoral allegiance to the conservative camp. Additionally, this incident spoiled the UFT’s and AFT’s reputation as civil rights advocates, which offered the opportunity for the NEA to pick up that standard.

Selden, David. The Teacher Rebellion. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1985.

Selden was a main organizer for New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and served as the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) from 1968 to 1974, when he lost a leadership election to Albert Shanker. Written in the first-person, Selden explains that this “book is a memoir of the postwar decades, when the spark of teacher militancy spread across the country. I was a participant in that movement. My experience helps locate the events of the rebellion in their time and social context. It also invokes the attempt to build that ‘one big union’ for all teachers.” (ix) Selden describes his role in building up the UFT and AFT, his time as president of the AFT, attempts at the AFT-NEA merger, and his loss to Albert Shanker in 1974.

Taft, Philip. United They Teach: The Story of the United Federation of Teachers. Los Angeles: Nash Publishing, 1974.

Taft examines the UFT from its origins in the early twentieth century all the way until 1973. Taft explains that his book pays special attention to “obstacles to the growth of teacher unionism throughout the country and also in New York City. The activities of the old Teachers Union are examined up to 1935, the year in which the Communists gained control of the organization. As a result many of its former leaders and several hundred members withdrew and formed the Teachers Guild, which became the direct predecessor of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). The latter was able to eliminate the several dozen teachers’ associations which made the development of a successful collective-bargaining policy impossible.” (xi) Taft further explains that the “UFT is interesting because its size creates difficult administrative problems. In addition, a teachers’ union in New York which represents the staff in the schools faces problems that to some extent are different from and more difficult than those of teachers’ unions in virtually all the other cities in the United States. Nevertheless, the UFT has been able to overcome obstacles and weld together a diverse and loyal membership led by an unusual group of leaders.” (xi) Taft also explores the UFT’s fight for academic freedom, the UFT’s first contract, the UFT’s role in New York City’s school district decentralization plan, and the UFT’s role in the infamous Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike of 1968.

Urban, Wayne J. Why Teachers Organized. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1982.

Urban examines both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and some of their local affiliates around the country—primarily Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City—from the 1890s through the 1920s. Urban demonstrates that “teachers represented in microcosm the ongoing transition from farm to city that affected many aspects of American life during the Progressive Era.” (17) Urban claims that teachers during this time period organized for two primary reasons: “First, teachers organized to pursue material improvements, salaries, pensions, tenure, and other benefits and policies which helped raise teaching in the cities to the status of a career for the women who practiced it. Second, through the pursuit of salary scales and other policies, teachers sought to institutionalize experience, or seniority, as the criterion of success in teaching.” Urban further claims that both these factors are still very influential in teacher organizing, since teachers carefully guard them, and this has “inhibited effective organizational activity in the past.” (22 and 174)Urban also offers two useful cautions about the effects of union structure. First, Urban observes that leaders “of modern large-membership teachers’ unions devote most of their time to complex, time-consuming tasks, such as bargaining and handling grievances, leaving themselves little time and less inclination to allow meaningful member participation in setting goals and planning strategies.” (174) He further notes that the “bargaining process also imposes a powerful personal discipline on local leaders, making the emergence of politically reformist or radical leaders like Margaret Haley or Henry Linville less and less likely. The evolution of Albert Shanker of New York City from a social democrat … to a tough-minded, powerful, pragmatic unionist serves a s a case in point.” (176)

Zeluck, Steve. Toward Teacher Power. Highland Park, MI: Sun Press, 1974. http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/32955087?n=1&imagesize=1200&jp2Res=.25&printThumbnails=no

Zeluck was a member of the International Socialists when he wrote this pamphlet. Zeluck looks to the 1960s as the “halcyon days of the teacher movement. It was a period of rapidly rising salaries and employment, or rising self-confidence, of a belief that militant unionism provided the tools to win teacher rights and change the schools.” But Zeluck warns that “Today, from coast to coast, the movement is in trouble, under attack from all sides.” (1) Teachers, he continues, “appear…to be in danger of returning to the situation which characterized teachers 20 years ago. These developments are doubly intolerable to teachers and parents because they occur on the heels of a period of rising expectations by both teachers and communities in the 1960’s.” (1 and 2) Zeluck is identifies some key enemies of the teacher movement: “the U.S. corporate establishment” (4) and conservative politicians who support that agenda. Zeluck is also very critical of Albert Shanker’s leadership of the American Federation of Teachers. Zuleck concludes by arguing that the teacher “movement is in danger of having reached the limits of its effectiveness unless it takes a second giant step—a break with the conservative philosophy and practices of business unionism and the capitalist system which breeds it.” (38)

Waiting for Superman

Bale, Jeff and Sarah Knopp. Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012.

“In the first decade of the twenty-first century, a conservative, bipartisan consensus dominates about what’s wrong with our schools and how to fix them. In each case, those solutions scapegoat teachers, vilify our unions, and promise more private control and market mentality as the answer. In each case, students lose—especially students of color and the children of the working class and the poor.
This book, written by teacher activists, speaks back to that elite consensus. It draws on the ideas and experiences of social justice educators concerned with fighting against racism and for equality, and those of activists oriented on recapturing the radical roots of the labor movement. Informed by a revolutionary vision of pedagogy, schools, and education, it paints a radical critique of education in Corporate America, past and present, and contributes to a vision of alternatives for education and liberation.” (description from Haymarket website)

Bowles, Samuel and Herbert Gintis. School in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011.

“Many recent books on education and schooling examine small pieces of the system to suggest improvements–teacher training and practice, assessments, school design and management, and the like. No book has ever taken on the systemic forces at work in modern education systems like Schooling in Capitalist America and suggested that a radical transformation of society is required to improve schools.” (description from Haymarket website)

Carey, Kevin. “The Dissenter.” The New Republic, November 23, 2011. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/magazine/97765/diane-ravitch-education-reform?page=0,0&passthru=YjkzM2EyNmQ3ZDllNmUzYTAzZGQ0OTE4NGJmMWM1Zjc

Carey chronicles Diane Ravitch’s career in speaking publicly on education policy, which had many twists and turns. When Ravitch began this public career, Carey explains that Ravitch “had spent years in the inner circle of conservative education policy, advocating for school vouchers, firing incompetent teachers, and shutting down failing schools.” Ravitch’s “conversion” started in 2001, when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg centralized the city’s Department of Education. Ravitch began to believe that her previous views were misguided. She now firmly opposes the brand of school “reform” espoused by Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman”, a documentary that primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system. Carey also devotes a significant portion of the article to show the shortcomings of Ravitch’s arguments.

Cavanagh, Julie, Darren Marelli, Norm Scott, Mollie Bruhn, and Lisa Donlan. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman. New York: Grassroots Education Movement Production and Real Reform Studios, 2011. http://theinconvenienttruthbehindwaitingforsuperman.com/

This documentary was written and produced by New York City public school teachers to refute the claims of the documentary Waiting for “Superman”. With extensive corporate funds and support, Davis Guggenheim wrote, narrated, and produced Waiting for “Superman”. That documentary primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system. The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman shows the other side of the debate by examining grassroots movements of parents, teachers, students, and community members who oppose school privatization in New York City public schools and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s centralization of school administration. In addition to being able to watch the film, this website offers many more resources that argue against school privatization and provides ways to help spread that message.

Compton, Mary and Lois Weiner, eds. The Global Assault on Teaching, Teachers, and Their Unions: Stories for Resistance. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008.

Compton and Weiner have gathered together this collection of essays that examine neoliberal education policies from nations around the world, including United Kingdom, South Africa, China, Mexico, West Indies, United States, Namibia, India, Australia, Denmark, Canada, Brazil, and Germany. Compton and Weiner explain that “teacher trade unionists are grappling with the increasing privatization of education services,” which generally consist of, “the introduction of business ‘quality control’ measures into education, and the requirement that education produce the kind of minimally trained and flexible workforce that corporations require to maximize their profits.” (5) And while “the titles and acronyms of policies differ from one country to another,” the continue, “the basics of the assault are the same: undercut the publicly supported, publicly controlled system of education, teachers’ professionalism, and teacher unions as organizations.” (4) Compton and Weiner point out that, unfortunately, the “voices for privatization and neoliberalism have virtually the whole of the world’s media at their disposal to speed them on their way.” (6) “Ironically,” however, Compton and Weiner remind teachers that “the potential power of teachers and our unions to derail neoliberal reforms like privatization is often more apparent to our opponents than it is to teachers and union leadership.” (7) For Compton and Weiner, this means teachers need to be aware of the obstacles they face, but they should also realize the power they have to create positive changes.

Susan L. Robertson’s essay, “‘Remaking the World’: Neoliberalism and the Transformation of Education and Teachers’ Labor,” provides an excellent historical background for the development of neoliberal policies across the globe, including an explanation of the term “neoliberal.”

Dannin, Ellen. “The Long History of Privatization Failures,” Portside Online, October 23, 2013.
URL: https://portside.org/2013-10-24/long-history-privatization-failures

“We need to own up to is that privatization experiments, based on ideology rather than evidence, have created disruption, neglect, and harm to vital public services and infrastructure – and those effects have undermined the private sector which depends on high quality public services. We seem to have forgotten that the public sector has long created the environment and resources necessary for businesses to prosper.” (summary from Portside website)

Democracy Now!, “‘Waiting for Superman’: Critics Say Much-Hyped Education Documentary Unfairly Targets Teachers Unions and Promotes Charter Schools.” October 1, 2010. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/1/waiting_for_superman_critics_say_much

Waiting for Superman, a new documentary by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, has caused a stir in the education world for its sweeping endorsement of the charter school movement and attack on teachers unions. President Obama has endorsed the film, describing it as “heartbreaking” and “powerful,” but some teachers have called for a boycott of the film for its portrayal of teachers and the teachers union. We speak to Rick Ayers, founder of the Communication Arts and Sciences program at Berkeley High School and adjunct professor in teacher education at the University of San Francisco.” (description from Democracy Now! website)

Gates, Bill. “How Teacher Development Could Revolutionize Our Schools.” Washington Post, February 28, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/27/AR2011022702876.html

In this article, Bill Gates presents part of his proposed solution for fixing the U.S. education system. Gates claims that spending on public schools has increased dramatically without many positive gains in performance. Gates disapproves of the seniority and tenure systems in teachers’ unions because they increase costs and stifle innovation in education. Gates wants to get rid of these systems to make education more cost effective. Gates also favors standardizing teaching practices to make teaching more effective and efficient, thus comparing education to a form of production. The ideas Gates presents here are very similar to those expressed in the documentary to which he provided significant support, Waiting for “Superman”, which fully endorses privatized charter schools.

Giroux, Henry A. Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014.

“Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education reveals how neoliberal policies, practices, and modes of material and symbolic violence have radically reshaped the mission and practice of higher education, short-changing a generation of young people. Giroux exposes the corporate forces at play and charts a clear-minded and inspired course of action out of the shadows of market-driven education policy. Championing the youth around the globe who have dared to resist the bartering of their future, he calls upon public intellectuals—as well as all people concerned about the future of democracy—to speak out and defend the university as a site of critical learning and democratic promise.” (description from Haymarket website)

Leopold, Les. “The Hedge Fund That Ate Chicago.” Portside.org. May 5, 2014.

“There’s a battle royale raging in Chicago,” begins Leopold. This battle “pits hedge funds, the Chicago financial exchanges, real estate interests and Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the one side, against public employee unions and community groups on the other.” Emanuel and his allies claim the pension funds for public employees need to be drastically cut to avoid tax hikes. Despite these calls for austerity, however, Emanuel’s administration provides massive subsidies and/or tax breaks to many private companies, which also strains the budget. Although the main battleground is Chicago, Leopold announces that the “outcome may determine the health and well-being of pension funds as well as public services all across the country.”

“Defined pension funds,” Leopold explains, “are disappearing for two overlapping reasons. The first is that unions, the main driver of defined-benefit pensions, are in decline. Today, union’s represent less than 7 percent of the private sector workforce, down from 35% in 1955. But that’s only part of the story. The most crucial cause is the deregulation of the financial sector which started in the late 1970s. Once freed from their New Deal shackles, corporate raiders (now called private equity firms, hedge funds and investment firms) strip-mined thousands of corporations using borrowed money.” Leopold demystifies the language these brokers use to justify their practices: “The raiders, of course, claim that through their own entrepreneurial genius, they ‘unlock’ hidden value. In reality, they milk the company in every way imaginable,” in a practice Leopold calls “financial strip-mining.”

Leopold explains that the “public employee unions and community activists contend that city’s fiscal problems could be solved easily through a small sales tax on financial trades on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange.” This “financial transaction tax (sometimes called a financial speculation tax or Robin Hood Tax),” says Leopold, “is designed to retrieve some of the money that is being siphoned away from our wages, benefits and tax dollars.”

Leopold sees this solution as a potential means to close the rift that often appears to divide public and private sector employees: “While such a tax could easily fulfill the promises made to public employees, it might also be prudent and just to use some of the financial tax to create a statewide defined benefit pension fund for private sector as well as public employees. That should put an end to the divide-and-conquer tactics opportunistic politicians and their hedge fund cronies use to enrich themselves and their political ambitions.”

Lipman, Pauline. The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. New York: Routledge, 2011.

Lipman looks at Chicago as a neoliberal “laboratory,” which she says is “driven by market ideologies and the regulatory power of global finance.” Lipman argues that “education is both shaped by and deeply implicated in globalized political, economic, and ideological processes that have been redefining cities over the past 25 years.” (3) As pervasive as the neoliberal mindset may seem, Lipman claims, the “current failure of markets and deregulation has brought to the fore weaknesses of the neoliberal strategy, creating an opening for alternative progressive agendas and alliances.” (10) Lipman also explains many key aspects of neoliberal ideology. In the neoliberal worldview, says Lipman, education is considered a “private good, an investment one makes in one’s child or oneself to ‘add value’ to better compete in the labor market, not a social good for development of individuals and society as a whole.” (14-15) In one of her chapters, Lipman explores the roots of “school choice” to better understand why these neoliberal policies appeal to so many “teachers and parents, particularly parents of color, who are fed up with the failures of public schools to educate their children appropriately.” (21) In order to create an alternative vision to neoliberalism, claims Lipman, we need to better appreciate its power.

Naison, Mark. Badass Teachers Unite!: Writing on Education, History, and Youth Activism. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014.

“This collection of important and much needed essays on education and youth activism draws from Naison’s research on Bronx History and his experiences defending teachers and students from school reform policies which undermine their power and creativity. Naison’s focus is identifying teaching and organizing strategies that have worked effectively in New York, and could be implemented in impoverished communities elsewhere.” (description from Haymarket website)

National Education Association, “NEA’s Waiting for Superman Resources,” October 5, 2010. http://neatoday.org/2010/10/05/waiting-for-superman-resources/

This is a collection of articles and multimedia clips from journalists, educators, school administrators, and activists that counter the claims made by Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman”, a documentary that primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system.

Phillips, Mark. “The Cinema of Educational Despair.” Washington Post, April 2, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-cinema-of-educational-despair-a-bad-narrative-reinforced/2012/04/01/gIQAhthIpS_blog.html

Phillips focuses on the film Detachment, which presents a very depressing view on teaching in urban public schools. Phillips criticizes this movie because it “reinforces” the negative outlook on public schools and “takes it even further into bleak anger and despair.” This narrative, which is so widespread across the country, has a terrible effect on “teachers struggling in underfunded schools” because “it encourages anger and self-pity rather than productive action.” Further, Phillips claims that for “critics of our public schools,” films like Detachment will only “validate the half-truths they already believe.” Instead of perpetuating this dismal outlook, Phillips asks for a film “about really bright, dedicated, politically savvy teachers and students who take on a group of dim political leaders and turn their school around. … Imagine the impact a film with that narrative could have.”

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. New York: Basic Books, 2010.

In this book, Ravitch refutes the brand of school “reform” advocated by people like Davis Guggenheim and his documentary Waiting for “Superman”, a film that primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system. Ravitch also criticizes the high-stakes, standardized testing implemented by George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, which Ravtich sees as an invalid way of testing students and gives too much money to corporations that administer the tests. Ravitch shows that those advocate school “reform” have such persuasive cases because they offer such appealing, simple solutions to complex problems. But the “new corporate reformers,” says Ravitch, “betray their weak comprehension of education by drawing false analogies between education and business.” Instead of a for-profit venture, Ravitch stands behind public education as a means “to shape good human beings, good citizens, people of good character with the knowledge and skills to make their way in the world and to join with others to sustain and improve our democracy.”

Ravitch, Diane. “The Myth of Charter Schools” (A review of Waiting for “Superman”). New York Review of Books, November 11, 2010. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/nov/11/myth-charter-schools/

In this review, Ravitch shows the many flaws in Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman”. Waiting primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system. Ravitch states that Waiting for “Superman” is “a powerful weapon on behalf of those championing the ‘free market’ and privatization.” The documentary is so convincing, Ravitch claims, because it offers teachers’ unions, and public education in general, as scapegoats: “At last we have the culprit on which we can pin our anger, our palpable sense that something is very wrong with our society, that we are on the wrong track, and that America is losing the race for global dominance. It is not globalization or deindustrialization or poverty or our coarse popular culture or predatory financial practices that bear responsibility: it’s the public schools, their teachers, and their unions.” The very nations that Waiting for “Superman” claims we are “losing” to, says Ravitch, “whether Korea, Singapore, Finland, or Japan—have succeeded not by privatizing their schools or closing those with low scores, but by strengthening the education profession. They also have less poverty than we do,” something Waiting for “Superman” fails to mention. Ravitch affirms that “Public education is one of the cornerstones of American democracy,” so she feels that American citizens should continue to support it.

Ravitch, Diane. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

“In Reign of Error, Diane Ravitch argues that the crisis in American education is not a crisis of academic achievement but a concerted effort to destroy the schools in this country. She makes clear that, contrary to claims being made, public school test scores and graduation rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and dropout rates are at their lowest point. She argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education, some for idealistic reasons, others for profit.” (summary from dust jacket)Instead of the current bipartisan consensus of so-called school “reform,” Ravitch contends that both political parties ought to oppose privatized education: “Liberals should be at the forefront of the effort to defend public education, because public education has been …a force to achieve a more just society,” and conservatives “should be at the forefront of the effort to oppose privatization because the public school is a source of community, stability, and local values.” (320 and 321)Ravitch concedes that public schools are not perfect. Indeed, she says, “we must improve our schools.” But, contrary to the privatization agenda, Ravitch explains that true “school reform must be built on hope, not fear; on encouragement, not threats, on inspiration, not compulsion; on trust, not carrots and sticks; on the belief in the dignity of the human person, not a slavish devotion to data; on support and mutual respect, not a regime of punishment and blame.” (325)Ravitch reminds readers that the “essential mission of the public schools is not merely to prepare workers for the global workforce but to prepare citizens with the minds, hearts, and characters to sustain our democracy into the future.” (325) Because of the stakes involved in this struggle, Ravitch declares that “[p]rotecting our public schools against privatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil rights issue of our time.” (325)

Rothstein, Richard. “Fact-Challenged Policy.” Economic Policy Institute, March 8, 2011. http://www.epi.org/publication/fact-challenged_policy/

Rothstein refutes, point by point, Bill Gates’s claims in one of his articles called “How Teacher Development Could Revolutionize Our Schools.” Gates enthusiastically favors school privatization, and gave significant support to Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman”, a documentary that primarily blames teacher unions for the problems facing public schools and offers privatized charter schools as the answer. The documentary claims that teacher unions protect incompetent teachers and stifle innovation in education. However, private charter schools, the documentary argues, are free to make the changes necessary to rescue the U.S. education system. Rothstein shows how Gates misrepresents facts to make his case. Rothstein finds that Gates’s “specific prescriptions, and the urgency he attaches to them, are based on the misrepresentation of one fact, the misinterpretation of another and the demagogic presentation of a third.” “It is remarkable,” Rothstein continues, “that someone associated with technology and progress should have such a careless disregard for accuracy when it comes to the education policy in which he is now so deeply involved.”Bill Gates’s article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/27/AR2011022702876.html

Saltman, Kenneth J. Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2007.

“Capitalizing on Disaster dissects the most powerful educational reforms and highlights their relationship to the rise of powerful think tanks and business groups. Over the past several decades, there has been a strong movement to privatize public schooling through business ventures. At the beginning of the millennium, this privatization project looked moribund as both the Edison Schools and Knowledge Universe foundered. Nonetheless, privatization is back.”

“The new face of educational privatization replaces public schooling with EMOs, vouchers, and charter schools at an alarming rate. In both disaster and nondisaster areas, officials designate schools as failed in order to justify replacement with new, unproven models. Saltman examines how privatization policies such as No Child Left Behind are designed to deregulate schools, favoring business while undermining public oversight. Examining current policies in New Orleans, Chicago, and Iraq, Capitalizing on Disaster shows how the struggle for public schooling is essential to the struggle for a truly democratic society.” (Description is from Paradigm Publishers website)

Senechal, Diana. “In Defense of Diane Ravitch.” The New Republic, December 12, 2011. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/98379/diane-ravitch-school-reform

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