The working title of my book is The Teaching Wars: A Political History of America's Most Controversial Profession. It will be published by Doubleday in 2014.
Since the birth of the public school system, there has always been a contention in American politics that something is wrong with the teacher corps, and that it must be reformed and reconstituted. During the 1830s, Common School reformers like Horace Mann believed too many transient, uncommitted young men were teachers; by the turn of the century, urban good government types were alarmed that 80 percent of teachers were women, whom they considered undereducated and unambitious. The Red Scares of the 1930s and 1950s led to thousands of teachers being pushed out of the classroom in retaliation for their involvement in left politics; by the late 1960s, Black Power community control activists were critiquing teachers and their unions from the left, arguing that the people who worked inside public schools were disrespectful of disadvantaged students' cultures, neighborhoods, and families.
My book will track the politics of public school teaching all the way up to the present day, and show how teachers have been at the absolute center of every social movement that rocked the United States, from feminism to organized labor to Civil Rights to management consulting! Teachers' closeness to these controversial movements has made the profession itself controversial, but all that political noise can detract attention from the real policy challenge, which is recognizing, rewarding, and scaling excellent teaching.
There's way more I'm thinking about, drawn from history, social science, and contemporary reporting inside schools. But I'm going to resist the urge to say more here, because I really need you to buy the book when it comes out -- and the ideas will evolve as I research, report, and write.