Reviewing The Teacher Wars, a History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

24 Jul

Reading Dana Goldstein’s book was a journey of discovery that I wished I’d taken in 1975, before I ended up teaching for thirty years in the embattled and often abused public schools.


About the time I reached page 100, I e-mailed an old friend and told him that if I’d read this book before I went into education, I might have changed my mind. Maybe I would have even given the U.S. Marines a second chance at a career.

However, by the time I reached page 274 and finished Goldstein’s book, I changed my mind and was glad I spent thirty years in the classroom fighting the barbarians and fools who are working hard to destroy public education through politics.

On page 250 in the bound galley supplied by Amazon, Goldstein says, “The policy, one of several school turnaround strategies suggested by (President Obama’s) Race to the Top, is based on a faulty premise: that veteran teachers are to blame when schools experience many years of low test scores.”

I agree with Goldstein. Bill Gates and Obama’s Race to the Top and its Common Core crap is a faulty, untested theory that’s causing more problems and fixing none.

I read Goldstein’s book with a Hi-Liter, and tagged many pages with information I thought relevant. In this review, I’ve resisted the urge to list many of the key points in the book and rant about them, because then the review might run thirty to forty thousand words.

But there is one point I want to focus on, and that’s teacher training. On page 250, Goldstein mentions three methods of teacher training.

First is the most common path to the classroom through a traditional college of education; second is with an urban teacher residency program, and third is with Teach for America (TFA).

First, urban teacher residency programs have an 87-percent retention rate.

Second, the retention rate for teachers who go through a traditional college of education to reach the classroom is 50 percent.

Third, for a program like TFA’s with five-weeks of summer training and little or no follow up support in the classroom, retention was 33 percent.

Can you guess the teacher training program favored by the Obama administration? The correct answer is TFA.

However, the urban teacher residencies had the best teacher retention, because these programs required a year-long residency in a mentor’s classroom, a requirement that matches the teacher training methods used in high archiving nations like Finland and in Shanghai, China.

There is a profile on page 252 that describes teachers who are most often rated highly by principals. Those teachers stayed in their job for many years. They were usually thirty or older and had extensive experience in jobs outside of education. They were usually working class black, Latino or white who graduated from non-elite colleges and often started in a community college.

When I read that profile, I was shocked, because that description matched my path to teaching. I was born to poverty and my parents, both high school dropouts, were blue-collar working class. I started work at 15, and after graduating from high school served in the U.S Marines where I ended up fighting in Vietnam, and didn’t start teaching until I was 30.  In 1970, after earning an Associate of Science degree from a community college, I attended a non-elite college where I earned a BA in journalism in 1973.

Then, after working for two years in middle management in the private sector, I went through a year-long residency in a mentor teacher’s classroom.

I urge you to read Goldstein’s book when it’s released by Doubleday on September 2, 2014. Through The Teacher Wars, you will discover how U.S. politics are mostly to blame for any problems that exist in the public schools, and it’s been this way for 175 years. Today’s 3.3+ million public school teachers are not the problem, and Obama’s Race to the Top’s and the Common Core agenda of Bill Gates along with TFA—with its 66-percent teacher dropout rate—are not the solution.

There are three areas that would lead to dramatic improvement in public education, but it won’t happen overnight. Teacher training is the first area that needs attention.

Teacher pay is another. The headline in a recent piece published by Education shouted, Teacher Pay Starts Low, Grows Slowly, Is Generally Awful, Report Says.

Then there are early childhood education programs that should be mandatory for children living in poverty in the United States and available to every child as early as age three. Early childhood education should focus on literacy and foster a passion for reading.

We must abandon President Obama’s Race to the Top and its Machiavellian Common Core agenda to “rank and yank” teachers after torturing children with too many standardized tests that are wrongheaded, flawed and meaningless.

I read a free advanced galley proof of this novel sent to me by Amazon Vine. Eventually, this 5-star review will appear on Amazon, probably revised if Amazon won’t accept it as it appears here.


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves


Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).


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6 responses to “Reviewing The Teacher Wars, a History of America’s Most Embattled Profession

  1. Lloyd Lofthouse

    July 24, 2014 at 14:15

    Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse.

  2. Sumedha

    July 25, 2014 at 11:32

    Reblogged this on SUMEDHA MABARANA and commented:
    There are three areas that would lead to dramatic improvement in public education, but it won’t happen overnight. Teacher training is the first area that needs attention.

  3. VanessaVaile

    November 22, 2014 at 08:20

    Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns.

  4. Charla

    December 22, 2014 at 22:02

    I have to read this book and any others you recommend that reveal what’s going on to destroy public education in the United States.


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