The Teacher Wars

A History of America's Most Embattled Profession
Sept. 11, 2014

Why is teaching the most controversial profession in America? Historically, American public school teaching developed as an explicitly anti-intellectual, working class job. Yet at the same time that we paid public school teachers poorly, policed their political activity, and prevented them from influencing the curriculum, we asked them to eradicate poverty and inequality—a staggering expectation. From the founding of the common schools movement in the 1830s through recent debates about teacher tenure and the Common Core, we are still debating: Who should teach? What should be taught? Who should be held accountable for how our children learn?

We talked with The Teacher Wars author Dana Goldstein, public school math educator Jose Vilson, and New York Times education reporter Motoko Rich on this unprecedented history of public school teaching, as well as the state of the American education system today.