As students return to school, the national dialogue on controversies surrounding teacher tenure, salaries, the core curriculum, testing and teacher competence will get more fervent.
In her new book, The Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein writes about how teaching became "the most controversial profession in America," and how teachers have become both "resented and idealized."
In the New York Times, critic Alexander Nazaryan described the book as "meticulously fair and disarmingly balanced." Although it's largely a history, it also draws on Goldstein's reporting on recent controversies surrounding teaching.
"One of the things I noticed, especially after the recession hit in 2008 and coming into President Obama's administration, was we were having a big national conversation about inequality," Goldstein tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And teaching was something that was discussed again and again as a potential fix — a fix for inequality, something that could help poor children achieve like middle-class children and close these socioeconomic gaps that we're so concerned about as a nation."
For the book, Goldstein researched 200 years of teaching in America.
"What surprised me ... was that we've always had these high expectations," she says. "This idea that teachers have a role to play in fighting poverty and inequality has been with us since the early 19th century."
On how teaching became a woman's profession
A lot of people are surprised to learn that back in 1800, 90 percent of American teachers were actually male. Today we know that actually 76 percent of [them are] female, so how did this huge flip happen?
The answer is that as school reformers began to realize in the 1820s that schooling should be compulsory — that parents should be forced to send their kids to school, and public education should be universal — they had to come up with a way to do this basically in an affordable manner, because raising taxes was just about as unpopular back then as it is now. So what we see is this alliance between politicians and education reformers in the early 19th century to redefine teaching as a female profession.
They do this in a couple ways: First, they argue that women are more moral in a Christian sense than men. They depict men as alcoholic, intemperate, lash-wielding, horrible teachers who are abusive to children. They make this argument that women can do a better job because they're more naturally suited to spend time with kids, on a biological level. Then they are also quite explicit about the fact that [they] can pay women about 50 percent as much — and this is going to be a great thing for the taxpayer.
On the role of education in the African-American community post-Civil War
Teaching represents everything to the African-American community after the Civil War. It is the means by which the children and grandchildren of slaves are going to be able to better themselves — the phrase that's often used is to "uplift the race" — teachers will uplift the race through their work.
Because there was so much discrimination against African-Americans in the broader job market, you see that both African-American men and women, the most educated blacks, do want to teach. [Like white women], it is a missionary job for them as well, but it's much more gender neutral, and it really carries with it a huge significance for what we today would think of as closing achievement gaps.
On the legacy of the African-American teaching mission
One of the wonderful surprises in researching this book was [that] so much of today's education reform conversation is actually borrowed directly from the African-American educational theorists who were writing as early as the Civil War about the power of education. These people — folks like Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Anna Julia Cooper, Charlotte Forten — these teachers, these educators, truly believed that education could close socioeconomic gaps between blacks and whites, and they were holding black students to rigorous standards. ... These different black educators really felt that the role of the teacher was to uplift poor children — and that is something that has truly stuck with us today.
On arguments for and against standardized testing
The biggest argument for testing is that it allows us to see achievement gaps. For example, because of No Child Left Behind, we can really see for the first time how are our African-American children performing compared to white kids? How are poor children [testing] compared to middle-class kids? What about our special [education] kids? What about our immigrant children who are still learning English? It's very important to have research and data on important questions like this, so I support gathering this data from a research perspective.
I think the big argument against testing is that when you incentivize adults to raise students' test scores, you see a number of effects on kids that don't get talked about as much as they should. You see the curriculum narrowing — so on those things that we don't test, we don't focus on them because the adults are so focused on getting the kids to score better on the test. Especially in high-poverty schools, you see test prep become the de facto curriculum.
And even recently, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, ... said this testing push is "sucking the oxygen out of the room" in many schools. ... It was really astounding because since 2009, the Obama administration has been pushing this testing stuff.
On tenure and why it's controversial
Tenure is so controversial because it provides greater job security than almost any other American who is not a teacher has. ... People say, "I don't have this sort of protection. If my boss wants to fire me, he can just come in on Monday and just fire me. Why should teachers deserve that?" I do think there are some good arguments why, but often the conversation gets boiled down to something very simplistic.
Tenure dates back to 1909, and at the time it was something that school reformers and teachers unions actually agreed about. They looked over at the Prussian, the German education system, which was very admired in the United States at the time. And they noticed that teachers there had more job security — and that the low pay that teachers earned was offset by the promise of due process, the promise that you could hold onto your job for a long time and that you would get a pension at the end when you retired.
School reformers and unions wanted to bring this system to the United States, especially because at the time it was not unusual for teachers to be laid off or fired for very bad reasons, such as they were pregnant, they were black, they didn't get along with the mayor — these were all very typical occurrences back then.
The Associated Press
An Internet video purports to show the beheading of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff by the Islamic State group.
Sotloff, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, had last been seen in Syrian in August 2013 until he appeared in a video released online last month by the Islamic State group that showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley.
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, Sotloff was threatened in that video with death unless the U.S. stopped airstrikes on the group in Iraq.
In the video distributed Tuesday and entitled “A Second Message to America,” Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he is beheaded by an Islamic State fighter.
Jim Walsh, an expert in international security at MIT's Security Studies Program, joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss these developments.
- Jim Walsh, expert in international security at MIT's Security Studies Program. He tweets @DrJimWalshMIT.
The instrumental hip-hop band BadBadNotGood released its third record, called ///, earlier this year. World Cafe host David Dye sat down with the Toronto-based trio to discuss its first album of original material.
It's that time again, and by "that time," I mean "Canadian time." Because beginning Thursday, NPR's own Bob Mondello and I, along with Bilal Qureshi of All Things Considered,, will be spending a week seeing movies at the Toronto International Film Festival, which your movie-nerd friends call "TIFF."
I wrote last year about the basic rhythms of the festival — its hugely packed schedule and colorful grids and huge collection of respected directors and actors. When I look at the 10 films I watched in the first two days last year, it's remarkable to me how much I've forgotten some of them. I didn't even remember I'd seen The Fifth Estate, particularly, until I reminded myself that I did. Some of them, on the other hand, echoed over and over as I talked about film for the following year: The Past, Jodorowsky's Dune, and the charmer The Lunchbox (which I still hope you'll see, if you haven't).
This year's schedule is just as enticing and hard to pin down. My Day 1 currently includes Whiplash, a drama starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons; Mr. Turner, directed by Mike Leigh; The Voices, directed by graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi; Girlhood, directed by Celine Sciamma, about a group of black high school students in Paris; and at least one player to be named later. And that's if I stick to the plan. I usually don't stick to the plan.
I've weeded out a couple of films about which you'll see TIFF coverage simply because they're opening so soon after we get back that I'll just see them then — first among them This Is Where I Leave You, based on a Jonathan Tropper novel I love and starring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Adam Driver, among others. I'm excited about the film, but the regular press screening is just after we return, so it's a small jump on the movie if any, and I'd rather take that time to seek out something less accessible from D.C.
I'm scheduled to gamble on Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, despite being less than blown away by Labor Day last year. I'm eager enough to see Anna Kendrick in The Last Five Years that I accidentally added it to my schedule twice. I have no idea whether Ruth & Alex, starring Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, is any good, but I'm not sure I can resist the pairing. And do not think for one moment you are keeping me away from Beyond The Lights, the new romance from Gina Prince-Bythewood, who made 2000's delicate and deeply felt Love & Basketball.
It goes on from there: Chris Rock! Noah Baumbach! And, oh yes, Rosewater, which kept Jon Stewart out of the Daily Show chair long enough to allow for the rise of John Oliver.
Two years ago, I wrote up every movie I saw individually and almost broke my fingers from typing; I'm unlikely to do that again. But I'll bring you roundups and updates and whatever interesting business breaks while I'm there. Feel free to peruse the listings and make recommendations; maybe your pick will be a player to be named later.
A good cold soup can be the centerpiece of a summer meal. But as the weather turns colder, soups get warmer. And that got Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst wondering, are there soups that work better cold than hot? Is it just a matter of heating or not heating, or do you need to tweak the recipe at all?
She brings us recipes for a tomato soup that gets the gazpacho treatment for warmer weather, a potato and leek soup and a zucchini-fennel soup.
“There are some really great soups that work both ways. So in other words, you can make a batch of soup, you can have it cold for lunch, you could have a picnic… but then when it turns cool at night, those exact same soups are delicious heated up,” she told host Jeremy Hobson.
- Garden Tomato Soup
- Vichyssoise (also known as Hot Potato Leek Soup)
- Zucchini-Fennel Soup
- Ideas For Soup Toppings
- Summer Pea and Lettuce Soup (see a video)
See more cooking segments and recipes from Kathy Gunst here.
Garden Tomato Soup
Kathy's Note: This is another great way to use up the last tomatoes of summer/fall. This is a light soup that is delicious cold or hot and can be served as is or topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, or heavy cream.
4 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, several varieties will add more flavor
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, green part discarded and white section sliced lengthwise and then into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cold water.
Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 minute and then directly into the ice cold water. Remove and peel. Repeat. Core the tomatoes and chop.
In a large pot heat the oil over low heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes. Try not to let them brown. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes and stir. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover; cook 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Puree the soup using a hand held immersion blender or transfer to the container of a food processor or blender. Return the pureed soup to the pot and season to taste.
To serve cold you can turn this into a Gazpacho-like soup by making this simple vegetable topping: mix 1 ripe tomato cubed, 1 sweet green pepper, cored and cubed, 2 chopped scallions, and 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
Vichyssoise (also known as Hot Potato Leek Soup)
Kathy's Note: Leeks and potatoes are good companions — whether served cold or hot. This is pure comfort food, smooth, rich, and bursting with flavor.
This recipe is adapted from “Notes from a Maine Kitchen” (Down East Books) by Kathy Gunst.
Serves 12 as an appetizer or 6 as a main course.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds leeks, washed, ends trimmed, and all dark green sections discarded, whites only
2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
7 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Freshly chopped chives for garnish
Touch of heavy cream for garnish, optional
In a large soup pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the leeks, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring to coat with the leeks and oil, for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Let the soup cool slightly. Using a hand-held immersion blender or transferring the soup to a blender or food processor, puree the soup until completely smooth. Place the soup back in the pot (if using a blender or food processor). Heat over low and taste for seasoning.
To serve cold, chill for at least 3-4 hours. Serve cold with a touch of heavy cream and sprinkling of fresh chives on top.
Kathy's Note: This pale green soup is equally good hot or cold. It has no cream or dairy but is creamy and comforting. Feel free to add a drizzle of heavy cream, creme fraiche, or Greek yogurt if you like.
Serves 4 to 6.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet Vidalia-type onion, chopped
4 medium zucchinis, about 2 pounds, trimmed and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 fresh fennel bulb, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds (the dill-like top of the fennel bulb)
1/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
Add zucchini, salt, and pepper, fennel bulb and half the fennel fronds and stir; cook 10 minutes. Raise heat to high, add wine, and let boil vigorously (to burn off the alcohol) for 4 minutes.
Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and partially cover until zucchini and fennel are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and puree.
Ideas For Soup Toppings
- Toasted nuts (chopped)
- Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary, basil, thyme or a combination)
- Lemon-flavored olive oil (add tiny drops for an enhanced citrus or lemon flavor)
- Other herb-flavored oils can be added in the same way to play up a fresh herb added to soups
- Croutes or croutons: slice crusty bread thinly and brush lightly with olive oil. Broil for a minute or two and flip it over and repeat.
- Smoked paprika adds a nice smoky flavor and good red color.
- Grated citrus zest can enliven the fresh flavors in soup. Use sparingly.
- Kathy Gunst, resident chef for Here & Now and author of cookbooks including "Notes from a Maine Kitchen." She tweets @mainecook.