Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A View of American Public Education from the Trenches of Teaching

by Hank Warren

Pub Date: Dec. 17th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1440134005
Publisher: iUniverse

A teacher with a 34-year career describes his ideas for education reform as well as his experiences in the field.

Warren lists his experiences as a schoolteacher, paints what he sees as the public perception of American education and offers what he thinks would be effective solutions to the problems facing teachers, students and parents. The anecdotes aren’t well organized, but they do give a cumulative sense of how hard it is to effectively deal with lazy administrators, manipulative or troubled kids and constantly shifting governmental demands. In his best stories, Warren, a veteran teacher, explains strategies he found useful, such as befriending secretaries and janitors and congratulating students on their hall-wandering abilities as a way of motivating them to get to class. Forwarded e-mail-style interludes, constant references to popular culture and attacks on figures from Warren’s past are less compelling. Throughout the book, the author comes across as slightly unsympathetic to parents, policy makers and educational administrators, who are portrayed, with only a few exceptions, as traitors to the cause of education. Instead of a complicated ecology of needs and abilities, the book makes the world of education seem as if it revolves around teachers who receive a special calling for their work. Every time a colleague can’t manage the responsibilities of the position or leaves for a more lucrative career in another field, Warren takes it as proof positive of teachers’ holy mission and superiority. Warren blasts public critiques of schoolteachers without much substantive response other than suggesting teachers are underpaid and the job itself is very difficult. These are facts, but they fail to point the way toward solutions for the real problems in American public education, and Warren’s suggestions—such as immediately doubling teachers’ pay and reducing the class size to 10 students per class—are not realistic. As a document of a single teacher’s experience with educational bureaucracy—a voice largely absent from the present debate over education—the book is useful. But it is hampered by its uneven tone and bias.

A passionate but poorly argued call for educational reform interspersed with illuminating anecdotes.