A vigorous, well-informed broadside against the marketization of the education system in the U.S.



A stern warning about the conservative agenda to tear down the public education system.

Schneider and Berkshire, hosts of the education podcast Have You Heard, present a cogent argument against the ongoing assault on our public schools as an institution. For decades now, there has been a movement to make education something families should be able to shop for, be it public, private, parochial, charter, virtual, or home-schooling. The authors examine the ideological roots of the movement and the core policies of the dismantling agenda. They believe that the conservative animus against public education is caused by its high tax cost in state budgets, the unionization of its workforce, the generally progressive curriculum, and the host of regulations and attendant bureaucracy. Curiously, the authors do not consider in much depth the roles of bigotry and classism within the traditions of local control, taxpayer support, and open access, but they offer particularly good explanations of neo-vouchers—“a cottage industry of fraud and chaos,” in one reporter’s words—education savings accounts, scam-laden building leases and management fees, and the private-governance model for charter schools. They also deliver a rather dire picture of the role of teachers, all of whom are underpaid, especially in the virtual-learning environment, where educators are reduced to helpers who will inevitably find their way into the gig economy. Consequently, if you don’t have to pay union wages for teachers, you will free up money for advertising, which will become an increasingly expensive part of the school picture as various school types compete for student tuition dollars. Some progressives, too, have shown their anxiousness to “forc[e] competition on a public education monopoly,” which shadows the conservative argument that “if the taxpayer is paying for the education”—as in charter schools—“it’s public education.”

A vigorous, well-informed broadside against the marketization of the education system in the U.S.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62097-494-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?