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A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School

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A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. While support for public education today is stronger than ever, the movement to save our schools remains fragmented, variable, and voluntary. Meanwhile, those set on destroying this beloved institution are unified, patient, and well-resourced. In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, co-hosts of the popular education podcast Have You Heard, lay out the increasingly potent network of conservative elected officials, advocacy groups, funders, and think tanks that have aligned behind a radical vision to unmake public education. They describe the dogma underpinning the work of the dismantlers and how it fits into the current political context, giving readers an up-close look at the policies—school vouchers, the war on teachers’ unions, tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and more—driving the movement’s agenda. Finally they look forward, surveying the world the dismantlers threaten to build. As teachers from coast to coast mobilize with renewed vigor, this smart, essential book sounds an alarm, one that should incite a public reckoning on behalf of the millions of families served by the American educational system—and many more who stand to suffer from its unmaking.


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A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. While support for public education today is stronger than ever, the movement to save our schools remains fragmented, variable, and voluntary. Meanwhile, those set on destroying this beloved institution are unified, patient, and well-resourced. In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, co-hosts of the popular education podcast Have You Heard, lay out the increasingly potent network of conservative elected officials, advocacy groups, funders, and think tanks that have aligned behind a radical vision to unmake public education. They describe the dogma underpinning the work of the dismantlers and how it fits into the current political context, giving readers an up-close look at the policies—school vouchers, the war on teachers’ unions, tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and more—driving the movement’s agenda. Finally they look forward, surveying the world the dismantlers threaten to build. As teachers from coast to coast mobilize with renewed vigor, this smart, essential book sounds an alarm, one that should incite a public reckoning on behalf of the millions of families served by the American educational system—and many more who stand to suffer from its unmaking.

30 review for A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I've been reading the book, in chunks, for the past week. Mostly, because it's a book best approached through a thoughtful, read/reflect fashion. When I started reading it, I realized that it was likely that I would have encountered most, if not all, the ideas included, and supporting evidence that public education was, in fact, being systematically dismantled. I knew I could skim though--check, been there, read that, check, agree, agree--but would benefit more if I could see how all the dots co I've been reading the book, in chunks, for the past week. Mostly, because it's a book best approached through a thoughtful, read/reflect fashion. When I started reading it, I realized that it was likely that I would have encountered most, if not all, the ideas included, and supporting evidence that public education was, in fact, being systematically dismantled. I knew I could skim though--check, been there, read that, check, agree, agree--but would benefit more if I could see how all the dots connected. In the last chapter of the book, the authors (there are two--not certain why this edition only shows one) share a story of having an education scholar review an earlier draft of the book. She asks 'Do you want to scare people?' and they acknowledge that yes, the purpose of the book is assembling data and patterns that tell us where public education is headed, unless there are some drastic changes in policy and practice. We *should* be apprehensive--there are well-funded groups whose goal is just that: taking down public education and selling it off for parts. The best parts of the book are the last few chapters, wherein the end game is revealed. Berkshire and Schneider aren't overly optimistic, and don't offer recommendations. They'll probably take some heat for that (why does every book have to present a solution?) but I think the assembled data shows very clearly that there will always be school-as-we-know-it for the rich. The schools where students have classmates, wholesome activities and challenging curricula (not to mention fully prepared teachers) will always exist, because they're worth the cost. It's also clear that educating the poor and those with academic difficulties will move further down the list of priorities, unless something changes. The solution is likely to be political and the authors mostly stay out of politics--also good, because it might mean that the book draws readers across the political spectrum. It's an outstanding, readable book, and a must for parents and policy-makers as well as educators. The wolf is indeed at the door.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    My struggles as an educator can be summed up in one sentence from page 195: “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible—carrying out the work of human improvement in a country driven by racial, economic, and geographic inequity.” The pandemic and remote learning has only amplified the truth embedded in this quote. Schools are expected to make up for disparities created by a history of disenfranchisement, discrimination, and privilege. As I give this book 4 stars, I can’t help but thin My struggles as an educator can be summed up in one sentence from page 195: “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible—carrying out the work of human improvement in a country driven by racial, economic, and geographic inequity.” The pandemic and remote learning has only amplified the truth embedded in this quote. Schools are expected to make up for disparities created by a history of disenfranchisement, discrimination, and privilege. As I give this book 4 stars, I can’t help but think of the chapter where Berkshire and Schneider dissect the rating system in the US. Once left up to experts, now ratings and reviews are done by any consumer - like me. Thus, my four star review is arbitrary. That being said, this book got me thinking. I’m an 8th grade public school teacher, but I can see how expectations placed on me are driven by outside threats of privatization. I am expected to raise test scores (see above paragraph about disparities). I am expected to implement personalized learning, blended learning, and more. The more technology I use the better. My school district purchases technologies that differentiate and which meant to make my job easier. After reading this comprehensive look into a push for free market education, no wonder I face the impossible expectation of individualizing my instruction. I know why I chose to read this book, but I wonder if any public school opponents will choose to read about the threats to public school. I’m not so sure, but at least this book helped give me some arguments to defend public education — although I wish more time was given to argue FOR public education, not just AGAINST school choice and privatization. As a result, I finished this book with more questions than answers, two of them being: 1. What is the purpose of public education? 2. In my state, there doesn’t seem to be talk of school choice and vouchers, but charter and magnet schools are prominent. Where does my state fall into the push for privatization? Overall, this book paints a clear picture of the threats to public education, but I wish more had been done to explain WHY we care that public education is being threatened.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bam cooks the books ;-)

    What do you picture for the future education of our children, grandchildren? Because if one thing's for certain, it won't be the traditional kind of education we all have experienced. The authors of this book discuss many of the possibilities: for-profit, vouchers, charter schools, virtual schools, etc. Will our children be taught online using A.I, eliminating the need for teachers? All of this information is couched in politics. It seems the dearest wish of libertarians like the Kochs would be t What do you picture for the future education of our children, grandchildren? Because if one thing's for certain, it won't be the traditional kind of education we all have experienced. The authors of this book discuss many of the possibilities: for-profit, vouchers, charter schools, virtual schools, etc. Will our children be taught online using A.I, eliminating the need for teachers? All of this information is couched in politics. It seems the dearest wish of libertarians like the Kochs would be to dismantle free public education all together. It's time to pay more attention to what is going on at the state and federal levels where the decisions are made.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    The authors seem to only use politically charged language to scare people, by their own admission in the conclusion, about a political movement they don't like. This book lacks any real argument beyond rich people, Republicans, and those that disagree with the authors are bad. I'd appreciate a real premise and support rather than a series of quotes and statements with buzzwords. The authors seem to only use politically charged language to scare people, by their own admission in the conclusion, about a political movement they don't like. This book lacks any real argument beyond rich people, Republicans, and those that disagree with the authors are bad. I'd appreciate a real premise and support rather than a series of quotes and statements with buzzwords.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Barbaro

    Excellent overview of the current changes K12 education is undergoing that ultimately aims to dismantle the public education system in favor of a privatized, market-based, deregulated business. Must read if you care about the future of our children’s education.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nadav David

    I learned a lot from this book about the history and current reality of the billionaire class and the political Right, aided by neoliberal Democrats, efforts to dismantle public education for the purpose of profit, control and weakening organized labor. The authors provide helpful detail into different tactics within this broader conservative vision, including school vouchers, charter schools, virtual learning and more, making me more able to suss out when these regressive political tactics are I learned a lot from this book about the history and current reality of the billionaire class and the political Right, aided by neoliberal Democrats, efforts to dismantle public education for the purpose of profit, control and weakening organized labor. The authors provide helpful detail into different tactics within this broader conservative vision, including school vouchers, charter schools, virtual learning and more, making me more able to suss out when these regressive political tactics are being introduced locally. As a partner of a badass public school teacher and union member, this book was instrumental in understanding her and her colleagues fight, both within the classroom and the union, more clearly. My 4/5 comes from a desire to hear more from the authors about a progressive / radical political vision for public education and a deeper history of organized labor / movements to support public education.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    One of the most coherent and thorough explanations of the current educational landscape. Though laced with inherent bias, the work brings a sense of balance to the perspectives surrounding school choice and highlights the objectives of prominent leaders in education. The book frames American schools as though they are in a perilous position, as evidenced by the title, and presents a call to action.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    I blogged my review here: https://fourthgenerationteacher.blogs... I blogged my review here: https://fourthgenerationteacher.blogs...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Schneider and Berkshire's critique of charter schools and the privatization of public education is a sharp and insightful analysis that helps unpack the complex forces at play in actively trying to dismantle public education. They demonstrate that the current push toward charter schools is part of an ongoing effort by right-wing conservatives that has moved from peripheral to center over the past 80 years. Initially arising as a means to work around equally funding schools for Black children or Schneider and Berkshire's critique of charter schools and the privatization of public education is a sharp and insightful analysis that helps unpack the complex forces at play in actively trying to dismantle public education. They demonstrate that the current push toward charter schools is part of an ongoing effort by right-wing conservatives that has moved from peripheral to center over the past 80 years. Initially arising as a means to work around equally funding schools for Black children or allowing for integration, charter school's historical legacy and contemporary means of being able to do a great deal of harm to students and teachers without any public accountability raise a range of questions about who is benefitting (i.e. profiting) from these structures. Schneider and Berkshire help to answer that question while also showing the ways these increasingly present strategies work on several levels. In the guise of "choice", they recenter the purpose of public education from creating citizens to being a good that parents should have a choice in (choice for the public option or use their tax dollars for the private/charter option). In the process of legislatively getting states and cities to create voucher programs where taxpayers' dollars go with the student (e.g. to a charter instead of a public school), they increasingly contribute to the demise of public education, which is often not sufficiently funded. The decreasing funds contribute to poorer school results which contribute to a downward spiral. Of course, this is something that has been played out in many other areas where the public good is slowly eroded and as they point out, once these cycles start, they rarely are turned around and once a system falls apart, it is almost never revived. And while there are criticisms of public education, the idea that it needs to be destroyed is one that will in many ways destroy many bedrock elements of civic society in general. At the same time, many companies are looking to make fast money on educational technology that everyone is looking to largely teach masses of students (though, of course, those that can afford it, will still get human-based teaching). But the goal of automating teaching and learning also chips away at the idea that public education should be something grounded in a community and part of a society and more a selection of tasks accomplished with a computer and often, under-experienced, overworked, and easily-dismissable (i.e. replaceable) workforce. This alone is enough to raise concerns for readers but the authors offer so much more that leaves one questioning what chances there are for those who want public education to actually be available for future generations.

  10. 4 out of 5

    n

    If you listen to the Have You Heard podcast, this book is going to be super predictable. It focuses largely on the GOP's push to dismantle US public schooling, and it focuses on Betsy DeVos more than anyone else. While DeVos definitely was responsible for harming schools, this has been a long process that has taken place over decades. It's frequently bipartisan, too. The book has a strong liberal-conservative framework. Because of this, it smashes a lot of people into the same categories for the If you listen to the Have You Heard podcast, this book is going to be super predictable. It focuses largely on the GOP's push to dismantle US public schooling, and it focuses on Betsy DeVos more than anyone else. While DeVos definitely was responsible for harming schools, this has been a long process that has taken place over decades. It's frequently bipartisan, too. The book has a strong liberal-conservative framework. Because of this, it smashes a lot of people into the same categories for the same reason without actually understanding the nuance behind beliefs. For example, they keep saying that people who want to dismantle public schools do so because they want to generate profit! Well, that's not true when you include people who want to dismantle public schools because they see school abolition as being part of the path to justice and freedom. There's a lot of scare quotes around words like "system," as if we're supposed to forget that schools are part of a system. The authors want you to not view schools in that light, and I think that actually hurts their argument more than it helps.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dan Philibin

    Gave a clear, well-explained overview of all the current threats to public education and the efforts to dismantle it. My main takeaway is that for as big, bureaucratic, and expensive as public schools can be, they provide tremendous value to communities, and there are good reasons for why the system is the way it is. Deep-pocketed groups have been trying for decades to dismantle public education, and have only been able to chip away at it — in part because public education is still highly popular Gave a clear, well-explained overview of all the current threats to public education and the efforts to dismantle it. My main takeaway is that for as big, bureaucratic, and expensive as public schools can be, they provide tremendous value to communities, and there are good reasons for why the system is the way it is. Deep-pocketed groups have been trying for decades to dismantle public education, and have only been able to chip away at it — in part because public education is still highly popular with the public. It's disheartening to hear that behind these efforts are not motives of improving education quality and equity (though they are marketed as such, of course), but motives of profit and, I suspect, curriculum micromanagement by conservatives who are quickly losing favor with the public. However, it's encouraging to learn of the power that public teachers unions and teachers' strikes still have and the public's unwavering refusal to give up on their local public education systems. Would be curious to learn more about: the changes the author feels are necessary to improve or strengthen public education; the increasing value schools provide to communities who are seeing many of their remaining 'fourth places' disappear; and the successes and failures of standardized testing, which will likely be the subject of my next read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chris Heady

    An essential read if you are curious about the current fight to demonize public education. Dense but important, melodramatic at times but also purposefully scary. Reinforces the importance of standing up for public education and public schools.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy Mitchell

    In the following twelve well-researched and accessible chapters, you will be taken on a whirlwind tour of national education policies often supported by both Democrats and Republicans: 1) Private Values 2) Faith in Markets 3) The Cost-Cutting Crusade 4) The War on Labor 5) Neo-Vouchers 6) The Pursuit of Profit 7) Virtual Learning 8) The End of Regulation 9) Don't Forget to Leave Us a Review 10) Selling School 11) Teaching Gigs 12) Education, à la Carte Every administration since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s In the following twelve well-researched and accessible chapters, you will be taken on a whirlwind tour of national education policies often supported by both Democrats and Republicans: 1) Private Values 2) Faith in Markets 3) The Cost-Cutting Crusade 4) The War on Labor 5) Neo-Vouchers 6) The Pursuit of Profit 7) Virtual Learning 8) The End of Regulation 9) Don't Forget to Leave Us a Review 10) Selling School 11) Teaching Gigs 12) Education, à la Carte Every administration since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s has supported most of the approaches to public education described in these chapters. The wealthy will always be able to afford small classes with experienced teachers. For the masses, the goal is to reduce costs. As we've learned during the pandemic, teachers can't be replaced with computer screens and families and students benefit greatly from in-person schooling. It is definitely worth an investment of your time to read this book. You will learn how and why so many wealthy influencers make a profit by undermining your local public schools. Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the authors' podcast Have You Heard. You should subscribe!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol Tilley

    A must-read. It'll make you angry and ready to take action. A must-read. It'll make you angry and ready to take action.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door" by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire is about the simultaneous unraveling and privatization of public school in America. As a former public school teacher and a firm believer in teachers' unions and high-quality public education, the facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privat "A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door" by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire is about the simultaneous unraveling and privatization of public school in America. As a former public school teacher and a firm believer in teachers' unions and high-quality public education, the facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privatization of K-12 education. This book also includes some discussion about the thievery of for-profit higher education institutions. This book highlights how there really is zero to be gained from the unraveling of public education. Definitely an important read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Parker Schramme

    Highly recommended this book for anyone interested in education policy. The “wolf” that Berkshire and Schneider are presenting is pervasive in education, yet largely invisible to most stakeholders. This book sharpened my knowledge about education policy and conservative interests within education, and has been a launching point for my understanding of state level education decisions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    Of the many things the pandemic has revealed about our nation, one of the more dismaying is how imperfect a grasp we have on the role of our public schools. Over and over again, I read hand-wringing items in the papers bemoaning the lack of learning taking place over remote learning, accompanied with importations to “open the schools” and “reach our kids.” These are the same writers, of course, who complain about how the schools are not singlehandedly erasing the achievement gap or getting our k Of the many things the pandemic has revealed about our nation, one of the more dismaying is how imperfect a grasp we have on the role of our public schools. Over and over again, I read hand-wringing items in the papers bemoaning the lack of learning taking place over remote learning, accompanied with importations to “open the schools” and “reach our kids.” These are the same writers, of course, who complain about how the schools are not singlehandedly erasing the achievement gap or getting our kids to embrace math and science. Oh, the irony. Schneider and Berkshire’s point is clear: public education is under attack, has been under attack for decades and is likely to suffer further blows, even with a Joe Biden in the White House instead of Donald Trump. Corporate interests, privatization agendas, conservative drooling over marketplace logic and union-busting: their argument is fact-heavy and convincing. Their book is short on solutions, but anyone invested already knows what to do: keep banging the drum and pushing against the “schools suck” narrative. Criticism of public education is not likely to abate any time soon, the writers remind us at the end of the book, since such a massive endeavor as trying to teach an entire nation of 50 million children is bound to fall short of any stated ambitions. But in order to see the future of education as per the desires of the corporate, conservative class, all you have to do, according to this book, is look at what Uber has done to its drivers; what the university system has done to its adjuncts; what Amazon reviews and ratings have done to qualified criticism and commentary. If we cease to look at our schools as a common good and look at them the same way we look at burger franchises and cell phone plans, we’re truly sunk. The stakes could not be higher.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cleo

    In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider go beyond talking about the "dismantling of public education' solely in terms of the school choice movement or the reliance on standardized test scores. Their book explores other aspects of the conservative agenda as it relates to public education that generally speaking receive less attention: virtual schooling, unbundling education, deregulation, limiting the role of organized labor and so-called 'personalized learning.' In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider go beyond talking about the "dismantling of public education' solely in terms of the school choice movement or the reliance on standardized test scores. Their book explores other aspects of the conservative agenda as it relates to public education that generally speaking receive less attention: virtual schooling, unbundling education, deregulation, limiting the role of organized labor and so-called 'personalized learning.' Both in laying out the current state of public education, particularly the agenda pursued by Secretary of Education DeVos and laying out some of the historical context, Berkshire and Schneider provide an extensive yet well laid out and easily understandable assessment of the issues at play specifically given the funding and efforts being allocated toward a very specific agenda. A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door is a must read for anyone interested in the current state and future of public education.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Greg Bradley

    I believe this book addresses most of the issues facing public education, however it focuses almost exclusively on Devos and big conservative money. They are an issue, but not solely because of the Goldwater/Reagan movement. Some of their momentum comes from the strong left lean of teachers unions. These unions have provided many positives for teachers, but their strong left lean on social issues allows conservatives to use them as a battering ram. During the pandemic we have seen unions push la I believe this book addresses most of the issues facing public education, however it focuses almost exclusively on Devos and big conservative money. They are an issue, but not solely because of the Goldwater/Reagan movement. Some of their momentum comes from the strong left lean of teachers unions. These unions have provided many positives for teachers, but their strong left lean on social issues allows conservatives to use them as a battering ram. During the pandemic we have seen unions push large urban districts to provide online only services, which this book acknowledges is less than best. But the unions which are fond of saying follow the science disagree when the science suggests that reopening schools are what’s best. So in many instances private schools are going on while public schools sit empty.

  20. 4 out of 5

    S.

    Very leftist book that pins all the blame of a failing public school system on conservatives, despite both liberals and conservatives are to blame. If you're a leftist, enjoy the book, if you're a moderate independent like me, read with a grain of salt, if you're a conservative, skip it. Very leftist book that pins all the blame of a failing public school system on conservatives, despite both liberals and conservatives are to blame. If you're a leftist, enjoy the book, if you're a moderate independent like me, read with a grain of salt, if you're a conservative, skip it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Marika Gillis

    I initially checked this book out of the library and quickly realized I needed to buy my own copy so I could mark it up. This book is about the conservative efforts to dismantle public education in America. The authors, Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, state that they are "sounding the alarm" on behalf of all who are served by the American educational system. The book is divided into three broad sections. The first explains the dogma behind the efforts to undo public education. The second l I initially checked this book out of the library and quickly realized I needed to buy my own copy so I could mark it up. This book is about the conservative efforts to dismantle public education in America. The authors, Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, state that they are "sounding the alarm" on behalf of all who are served by the American educational system. The book is divided into three broad sections. The first explains the dogma behind the efforts to undo public education. The second lays out what is currently happening with public policy and educational "reform" to further the dismangling agenda. And the third tells readers what the future of education might look like. To sum up the principles of the conservatives who want to be rid of public education, the authors explain how it is seen to be an expensive welfare delivery system. They do not see its governmental expense as valuable, and its only purpose should be readying children to enter the American workforce. The authors also explore how societal views of teachers account for low teacher salaries, a part I found fascinating and am going to elaborate on a bit here... Schneider and Berkshire explain the "special but shadowed" nature of the teaching profession. Since the teaching profession is highly visible, it is considered easy, unlike jobs that are mostly unseen, therefore more mysterious and harder (in theory). Also, teaching jobs are held primarily by women so they are seen as having less value. The status of a persons' job increases if they work with powerful clients but teachers serve children. And, finally, prestige is low because the things teachers teach are, by definition, the things that every adult should know, so successful teachers render themselves unnecessary when they are able to pass on that knowledge. Anyway, the current public policies and educational reform measures in place are also indicative of what the future of education may entail. These conservatives encourage the use of government money to fund charter and private schools. They also push for a hands off approach to regulation in those schools. Regulators work for the public and regulations apply equally to everyone which ensures fair treatment for historically marginalized populations. And regulations, they explain, don't help people make money off our educational system. Desperate attempts to profit off education have also been made by making teaching and learning a virtual experience. You can pay teachers the same amount to teach significantly more students if they are all online, thus saving money on salaries and space. (The pandemic teaching and learning experience was a frustrating indication of the public's failure to embrace this as a widespread approach.) Also, attempts have been made to make teaching part of the "gig economy." This would be where teachers are hired at a rate per course taught, thus eliminating the need to fund "expensive" salaries that include benefits. Inevitably, this leads to higher stress and quicker teacher burnout which, in turn, means higher turnover and less experienced and knowledgeable teachers in the professions. This is a must-read for anybody who cares anything about public education. The authors have the facts, studies, and statistics that illustrate how complex the American educational system is and how the policies and practices that have been put into place to dismantle education around the country have been detrimental to our society. It is up to the reader to decide if they agree. "To the dismay and frustration of those intent on dismantling public education, the public has a broad and inclusive set of goals for the schools. They want young people to develop basic academic skills, certainly. But they also want them to develop critical thinking skills, citizenship competencies, and positive character traits. They want students to discover their talents and abilities, to engage deeply with literature, and to explore the arts. And if that weren't enough, they want young people to be socially, emotionally, and physically healthy. That's a tall order- one that requires extensive programming and the resources to pay for it, particularly if the goal is to reach all children, no matter what their out-of-school circumstances." p38

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    “A wolf is lurking at the door of America’s public schools—prowling, biding it’s time, and waiting for the pack to assemble… what does it take to frighten away a wolf? Shouting, making noise, and standing talk.” (xxi-xxii) So, this is perhaps one of the most sobering, truly chilling books I’ve read in a while. In this book, Schneider and Berkshire paint a vivid and rather bleak picture of not just the current state of public education in America but also of the trajectory if the public is not comp “A wolf is lurking at the door of America’s public schools—prowling, biding it’s time, and waiting for the pack to assemble… what does it take to frighten away a wolf? Shouting, making noise, and standing talk.” (xxi-xxii) So, this is perhaps one of the most sobering, truly chilling books I’ve read in a while. In this book, Schneider and Berkshire paint a vivid and rather bleak picture of not just the current state of public education in America but also of the trajectory if the public is not compelled to intervene. From the sharp criticisms of basic factors such as spending on teachers and classroom sizes to more inflammatory—and, frankly, complex—concerns such as oversight, curriculum, standardized testing, and policy making, this book explores how [largely] conservatives in the private sector are actively trying to dismantle public education + community relationships with public education and reformat the “whole operation” as a true business aligned with free market practices rather than a mission aligned with propagating the most public good. It’s actually sickening to read some of the pages in this book. As an educator (in a community college), I found some of the practices being not just promoted amongst conservative circles but being loudly endorsed by conservative politicians to be so flagrantly in the disservice of students and their learning needs that it disgusts me. The apathetic and, honestly, reckless approach that so many of these self-appointed “education reformers” are applying to the practice of educating this country’s young people is heartbreaking. I said this book sickened be at points but, really, I mean it saddened me. “‘…where are the children and who is looking out for them?’” (199) This quote is introduced in a different context than I am introducing it here but I couldn’t help but come back to this sentiment when I finished reading this book. If educators and those in positions to provide care, support, and learning to children are not looking out for children, then who is? Should that not be the core of our work as educators? Overall, I think this is an, at times, bleak but necessary and important exploration of how public education has arrived at the state it is in. If you don’t address and name the problems at hand—if you don’t point out the wolf, how can you possibly begin to fix anything, to fight back? Very insightful! Highly recommend, not just for educators and parents but for anyone a part of any community anywhere! We ALL benefit from public education, after all—that’s supposed to be the point~

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Jennings

    A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire (2020) reports on page 195 that, “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible - carrying out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity.” I liked the book and found it to be thorough in it’s focus. The authors focus is how vouchers and tax-credit scholarships divert public funds to private and religiously A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire (2020) reports on page 195 that, “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible - carrying out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity.” I liked the book and found it to be thorough in it’s focus. The authors focus is how vouchers and tax-credit scholarships divert public funds to private and religiously affiliated institutions. Thus, the book’s focus is really on “a” wolf at the schoolhouse door. As the title suggests, by choosing “a” rather than “the”, this book does not try to say that this is “the” only wolf at the schoolhouse door. The authors give the reader a comprehensive view of one of the many potential and real “wolves” that make up the challenges today’s public education face. I recommend it. And I recommend that, for those that want to embrace the complexity of the many potential metaphorical “wolves” threatening schools as society attempts to ‘carry out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity’ to consider the following examples of inquiries. Should America strive to help all (each and every) student benefit from the academic, social, emotional and relational opportunities of schooling? Do we want and are we willing to ensure that our schools are fair to each student? If we value fairness, then we have to agree on how to be fair. Will America achieve fairness by treating each and every student equal, regardless of a student’s need or by treating students differently depending upon their needs? Is America ready to consider what the difference between an equatable and equal education? Which needs should we focus on with equity? Does America want public money to go to private and/or religious entities for schooling? On an operational level; how can American most effectively use our resources to ensure that all students have an equatable (not equal) opportunity for positive outcomes? Yes, the list of inquiries that encompass the complexity of this issue would be potentially much bigger. Back to - A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, I think it is a very good read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    amanda

    Oof. In the conclusion of this book, the authors say that someone who read an early copy asked if they were trying to scare people, and they said yes. This is not a book that’s meant to encourage. It is a book that is documenting the deterioration of education in the name of progress. As someone who has been a student and teacher in many of the systems, both public and private, that are mentioned here, most of this did not surprise me. The chapter on neo vouchers was the one section I can say I Oof. In the conclusion of this book, the authors say that someone who read an early copy asked if they were trying to scare people, and they said yes. This is not a book that’s meant to encourage. It is a book that is documenting the deterioration of education in the name of progress. As someone who has been a student and teacher in many of the systems, both public and private, that are mentioned here, most of this did not surprise me. The chapter on neo vouchers was the one section I can say I had almost no awareness of, and it was terrifying. I wish this book could have ended with solutions, but it’s clear they don’t know what they are. The American education system is in crisis, and virtual and charter schools and cutting funding and taxes are not the solution. This is an illuminating if not encouraging work, and it is necessary. I recommend The Teacher Wars as well if you want a fuller view of our education system beyond the last few decades. I think both of these together are necessary reading. Editing to add this: I think this is necessary because all of us who live in this country are affected by our education system. Even if you have moved here from outside the US, even if you were home-schooled, etc, the education system shapes everyone in the country because we are interacting with people who are raised in it, who acquired (or didn’t acquire) their knowledge and understanding of the country and world through it. I believe strongly that if we want our country to be better, we must all acknowledge the stake we have in improving public education and the citizens who emerge from it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    This is a scary book that could use fifty more pages. In general, I agree with the authors, benefited from a good public education, and intend, if I have kids, to send them to public schools. So, as someone who wants to support public education (especially as more than a way into high-paying jobs), I wanted more from this book. I wanted them to do more than polemicize arguments for school choice, but to assemble more facts and figures and leave those arguments in tatters. I wanted more about how This is a scary book that could use fifty more pages. In general, I agree with the authors, benefited from a good public education, and intend, if I have kids, to send them to public schools. So, as someone who wants to support public education (especially as more than a way into high-paying jobs), I wanted more from this book. I wanted them to do more than polemicize arguments for school choice, but to assemble more facts and figures and leave those arguments in tatters. I wanted more about how Virginia shut down its school system for multiple years after Brown v. Board, and what happened to those students. The specifics were lacking - I remember listening to Berkshire on an episode of Know Your Enemy, and hearing about some of the off-the-shelf curricula available, and how insane they are, and yet here, these authors barely scratched the surface of just how empty they are, or how right-wing. Too many phrases are repeated to get the book to its short number of pages, yet they leave so much unsaid, and too many arguments undeveloped, with too little hard evidence supporting those arguments, for me to be fully happy with this book as a treatment of something I truly care about.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Don

    A solid read that, as the title suggests, examines the steps taken over the last several decades that have weakened public education. The book does a good job of detailing the history of the ideological underpinnings of much of the effort to discredit public schools. The primary culprit to the authors - a free market ideology on steroids that essentially wishes to do away with all public goods. They demonstrate that history, connect the dots from those theoretical arguments in the past to implem A solid read that, as the title suggests, examines the steps taken over the last several decades that have weakened public education. The book does a good job of detailing the history of the ideological underpinnings of much of the effort to discredit public schools. The primary culprit to the authors - a free market ideology on steroids that essentially wishes to do away with all public goods. They demonstrate that history, connect the dots from those theoretical arguments in the past to implementation today by conservative politicians, and discuss what the future may hold. The most surprising part (and it probably shouldn't be but it always shocks me) is the amount of grifting that takes place by those implementing charter schools - once the ideologues got their way to channel public monies to private schools, the professional grifters came out (usually the buddies of these politicians, or at least their major donors) to set up avenues to get all that money. For those that have been paying attention, I don't think anything in the book will shock. For those that haven't, probably qualifies as a must read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

    “As far back as the earliest days of public education in the United States, the role of schools in producing an educated citizenry was perceived as foundational to the survival of a democratic system. In the words of legal scholar Derek Black, “Public education was to be the fuel that makes democracy work and the only sure guarantee that those controlling government will preserve rights and liberties, rather than trample on them.” p. 199 Very scary! This book explains clearly how, in the name of “As far back as the earliest days of public education in the United States, the role of schools in producing an educated citizenry was perceived as foundational to the survival of a democratic system. In the words of legal scholar Derek Black, “Public education was to be the fuel that makes democracy work and the only sure guarantee that those controlling government will preserve rights and liberties, rather than trample on them.” p. 199 Very scary! This book explains clearly how, in the name of school choice, proponents of unfettered “market forces” are slowly chipping away at public education. Our best option for ensuring the vibrancy of our democracy is that all citizens have a wide knowledge of our country and the world, its protections and its responsibilities - the only “choice” that has a mandate.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    The "Wolf" in this case is the radical conservative right that is/has been trying to dismantle public education. Attempts have been made from Regan to Trump to get the government out of it. Some believe that schools should just teach the basics and students should be issued vouchers to "buy' extras like sports, art, music, and AP classes. Others believe technology is the answer. Parents could be paid to homeschool or enroll children in computer classes. I just see it all as leaving many childre The "Wolf" in this case is the radical conservative right that is/has been trying to dismantle public education. Attempts have been made from Regan to Trump to get the government out of it. Some believe that schools should just teach the basics and students should be issued vouchers to "buy' extras like sports, art, music, and AP classes. Others believe technology is the answer. Parents could be paid to homeschool or enroll children in computer classes. I just see it all as leaving many children behind. Public schools do so much more that teach facts. This is pretty dry reading, especially when you don't agree with many of the ideas that are rebutted here.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Tully

    The facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privatization of K-12 education. This book includes some discussion about the thievery of for-profit higher education institutions and how there really is zero to be gained from the unraveling of public education. Definitely an important read. It's an outstanding, readable The facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privatization of K-12 education. This book includes some discussion about the thievery of for-profit higher education institutions and how there really is zero to be gained from the unraveling of public education. Definitely an important read. It's an outstanding, readable book, and a must for parents and policy-makers as well as educators. The wolf is indeed at the door.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Simply a regurgitation of the anecdotes and arguments Diane Ravitch makes. Nothing new. This books starts with a conclusion and builds an argument to support the claim any effort to break the public school monopoly is bad. This book also missed it moment. These arguments supporting public schools ring hollow after the institutions he defends shut their doors for a year and a half. This book is an outdated and tired effort to manipulate public support in defense of a failing government monopoly.

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