by Alexander Nazarian
"When it comes to books on public education, we crave a diet of meat as red as a teacher’s cruel pen. In case you plan to write one, here’s a brief primer: 1) Pick a contentious and complex topic, like charter schools, teacher evaluations or standardized testing. 2) Reduce that issue to a Manichaean battle for the soul of the American student, presenting your side as inarguably salvific. 3) Fire off some frightening statistics about Finland or South Korea. 4) Ignore evidence that might dampen your zeal; just remember, above all, that nothing sells books like outrage.
"But in “The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession,” her first book, the journalist Dana Goldstein disregards this facile formula. Ms. Goldstein’s book is meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced, serving up historical commentary instead of a searing philippic. A hate-read is nigh impossible. (Trust me, I tried.) While Ms. Goldstein is sympathetic to the unionized public-school teacher, she also thinks the profession is hamstrung by a defensive selfishness, harboring too fine a memory for ancient wounds."