Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_plcc_6M_fly_beacon Adele egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Subscribe & Save Gifts Under $50 Find the Best Purina Pro Plan for Your Pet Amazon Gift Card Offer bf15 bf15 bf15 $30 Off Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Black Friday Deals Outdoor Deals on Tikes
Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over School... and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Usually ships within 2 to 3 weeks.
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Tough Liberal: Albert Sha... has been added to your Cart
Used: Acceptable | Details
Sold by giggil
Condition: Used: Acceptable
Comment: Heavy wear, some small stickers or residue, and name on inside cover.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy. Hardcover – August 16, 2007

6 customer reviews

See all 6 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$5.06 $1.71

Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book
$75.00 FREE Shipping. Usually ships within 2 to 3 weeks. Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This book is a must-read for those interested in educational or labor history.

(Historian 1900-01-00)

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 1900-01-00)

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 1900-01-00)

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 1900-01-00)

An important new biography.

(The Politico)

A must-read for those interested in educational or labor history.


Hero Quick Promo
Holiday Deals in Kindle Books
Save up to 85% on more than 1,000 Kindle Books. These deals are valid until November 30, 2015. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; 1st edition (August 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231134967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231134965
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 6 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Quill on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In his film, Sleeper, Woody Allen immortalized Albert Shanker as the madman responsible for blowing up the world. That helped to get Shanker known outside of NY, but clearly it wasn't the real Shanker. In this highly readable and often exhilarating biography of Shanker, Richard Kahlenberg shows that while Shanker, the architect of the modern teacher union movement (and, it turns out, so much more) surely understood power and accumulated it, his only "madness" was to seek to empower the powerless and to hold this nation to the democratic ideals it espoused and he so cherished. Indeed, far from being "mad," Shanker was both intellectually and politically brilliant -- a rare combination -- an idealist with both a shrewd and compassionate understanding of human nature and a pragmatist who nonetheless stood firm on principles, a stance that sometimes incurred the enmity of allies as much as enemies. This was also a man who dealt with the high and mighty, but who in his writing and speaking could take the most complicated ideas and make them accessible to ordinary people without ever dumbing anything down. Had Kahlenberg just written a biography of this complex and far-ranging man, that probably would have been interesting enough. But Kahlenberg goes further and roots Shanker in the major political and cultural struggles over the soul of the Democratic party and the direction of this country. Regardless of one's view of those struggles and their outcomes, Kahlenberg's recounting of them cannot help but make you think of missed opportunities and "what ifs" to this day. Politics, race, education, the meaning and practice of democracy -- a heady and vitally critical brew. And Kahlenberg stirs and blends this pot well through Shanker, his meaty main ingredient.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Blaine Greenfield on March 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Albert Shanker had always been one of my heroes . . . yet until
I read TOUGH LIBERAL by Richard D. Kahlenberg, I had not known
too much about him.

That's no longer the case . . . in fact, this excellent biography even
increased my appreciation of Shanker who once told an interviewer:
* "If I didn't have to make a living, I would have done this as a volunteer."

What he did was head the American Federation of Teachers for
well over 20-25 years . . . by doing so, he helped change the
perception of teachers by having them recognized as professionals:

* A professional receives a liberal-arts education, then specialized
training, and then must pass a rigorous exam before beginning
to practice. She participates in an internship, is guided by mentors,
and participates in reviewing the performance of colleagues. Once these
professional responsibilities are met come the reciprocal set of rights:
greater autonomy and higher compensation. In Shanker's vision,
policies like a rigorous national test, peer review, and career
ladders were not just defensive moves against critics
of public-school teachers, they were prerequisites
to the professionalization of teaching.

TOUGH LIBERAL summarized Shanker's contributions to
education in one of the finest concluding paragraphs that I've
ever read:

* In one lifespan, Albert Shanker helped to create the institution
of collective bargaining for teachers, giving them greater dignity
and voice in how they would be treated. He then used that power
to engage in a series of critical education reforms that proved
instrumental in improving and preserving the institution of public
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By AmericanDreamer on July 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm guessing most readers of this review who are under 40 years old or who live outside the greater New York city area have not heard of Albert Shanker, the subject of this lively biography by Richard Kahlenberg. That's unfortunate. Agree or disagree with his views, Shanker was an articulate, dynamic and controversial teachers' union founder and leader who was also an important and interesting opinion leader on issues such as national standards and charter schools which are very much a part of today's education policy debates. Kahlenberg's book tells his story, explaining as well how Shanker's politics--encompassing issues going well beyond education policy--represented a road not taken by liberalism in the United States, for the worse in Kahlenberg's view.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Want to discover more products? Check out this page to see more: labor relations