From Publishers Weekly
Century Foundation senior fellow Kahlenberg, who has written previously about the public school wars (All Together Now
), paints a gripping portrait of the iconoclastic and often contradictory teacher's union leader Albert Shanker (1928–1997). Born to working-class Russian-Jewish parents on New York's Lower East Side, Shanker worked on a doctorate in philosophy at Columbia by night while teaching by day in East Harlem. During the late '50s he was involved in organizing New York City's United Federation of Teachers, becoming its president in 1964. In 1974 he also became president of the national American Federation of Teachers. In this perceptive biography, Kahlenberg shows that the firebrand union militant who led illegal strikes that closed New York City's public schools in 1967 and 1968 was at the same time a forward-looking educational reformer who, despite pronounced liberal credentials, pushed initiatives that are today associated mostly with conservative educational agendas. Among Shanker's passions were lofty standards, teacher accountability and charter schools. Kahlenberg applauds all this, along with Shanker's fervent anticommunism and his many efforts—regardless of the black-Jewish antagonism the school strikes engendered—to reach out to people of color. The reader comes away admiring a man who navigated troubled times deftly and left behind a record of great accomplishment. (Sept.)
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This book is a must-read for those interested in educational or labor history.
A thoroughly researched and engaging biography.
(Arch Puddington The Wall Street Journal
[A] fascinating biography.
(Sol Stern City Journal
At once exquisitely complex and grandly contextual.
(Martin Peretz The New Republic
A well-drawn portrait.
(Scott McLemee Newsday
Judicious and engaging.
(Fred Siegel Weekly Standard
[A] timely new biography.
(Sara Mosle Slate
An engaging book, and essential reading for anyone interested in the history of Cold War liberalism and its complicated legacy.
(Scott McLemee Inside Higher Ed
An excellent new biography.
(Jal Mehta American Prospect
A must read for unionists, educators, politicians and democracy internationalists trying to make sense of the persistent failings of U.S. education.
(Eugenia Kemble Democratiya
A spirited and readable biography.
(Adam Fairclough Washington Post
Named one of the American School Board Journal's must-reads of the year.
(American School Board Journal
[This book] is an important contribution to the history of American education reform.
(Nathan Glazer Education Next
An important new biography.
A must-read for those interested in educational or labor history.