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The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership Paperback – January 14, 2011
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"Anyone seriously interested in school reform should read this book."
--Christopher Cerf, co-creator, Between the Lions (PBS), & 2010 McGraw Prize in Education recipient
"'Must' reading for policymakers and practitioners alike."
--Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow, Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and author of The Global Achievement Gap
"A stunningly balanced and penetrating analysis of our schools and the challenges we face in fixing them."
--John Seely Brown, author of A New Culture of Learning & former Director of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC)
"A truly interesting and thought-provoking book that raises all the important questions and also points to some answers."
--Dorothy Stoneman, Founder of Youthbuild
"No one has tracked [public education's] decline and the struggle to reverse it with more zeal or a clearer mind than John Merrow."
--Robert MacNeil, author of Wordstruck & former anchor, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour
About the Author
In September 2012, John Merrow became the first journalist to receive education's highest honor, the McGraw Prize in Education. He began his career as an education reporter with National Public Radio nearly 40 years ago with the weekly series, "Options in Education," for which he received the George Polk Award in 1982. He is currently Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and President of Learning Matters, an independent production company based in New York City. Since 1984, he has worked in public television as a NewsHour Correspondent and as host of his own series of documentaries. His work has been recognized with Peabody Awards in 2000 and 2006, Emmy nominations in 1984, 2005, and 2007, four CINE Golden Eagles and other reporting awards. An occasional contributor to USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Education Week, he is the author of The Influence of Teachers (2011) and Choosing Excellence (2001) and co-editor of Declining by Degrees (2005). Merrow earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.A. in American Studies from Indiana University, and a doctorate in Education and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Among his awards are a Lifetime Achievement Award From the Academy Of Education Arts And Sciences in 2012, the James L. Fisher Award for Distinguished Service to Education in 2000, the HGSE Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education in 2006, The Horace Dutton Taft Medal in 2010, and honorary doctorates from Richard Stockton College (NJ) and Paul Smith's College (NY). He lives in New York City with his wife, Joan Lonergan, the Head of the Hewitt School. John Merrow blogs regularly at Taking Note: Thoughts on Education.
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Top Customer Reviews
Merrow has a way of getting right to the heart of the matter while also revealing nuance, and nailing it down in as few words as possible. He is remarkably clear-eyed, and even when on rocky ground, presents his perspective and material in a well-balanced manner. He is able to synthesize his perspective on education through different complementary lenses: that of a teacher (he taught briefly early in his career), a parent, and a reporter who has worked in many classrooms and alongside different education leaders. He therefore consistently infuses and grounds his perspectives on education reform with an awareness of what nurturing, caring, and educating children is really about.
What I most appreciate about Merrow's book is that he does not fall into the trap of allowing his perspectives to become polarized in simplistic ways, which few commentators on education seem to be able to resist. He holds the union, teachers, and reform leaders' feet to the fire in equal measure, and they all do better in its stead.
I have followed John Merrow's commentaries for many years and have found them generally to be critical, objective and insightful. These same characteristic s are found in this thoughtful volume. Mr. Merrow tackles the challenges facing education in this book in a straight forward manner. He distills the complex issues into understandable ideas and presents a balanced view. He has no personal "dog in the fight" but brings the issues into focus and provides extremely helpful commentary. I would recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in our educational system.
I love books that make me think in new ways. I especially appreciate those that shine a well-informed light on the political and social dynamics of institutions that affect children. Merrow knows the situation in American public schools. He's taken the time to interview district-wide stake-holders in many communities. He finds too many public and charter schools damaging the kids they ought to be committed to serve. In light of the ongoing national conversation on school reform, this isn't a surprise. What is surprising is how directly Merrow defines the problem and calls out those most responsible for perpetuating a broken system. The way he sees it, leadership is key and that key has been missing for too long at the district, school and classroom levels.
If you're lucky enough to be satisfied with your kids' schools you might think, "Yeah, that's a shame, but it's not my problem." Of course it is. Kids coming out of under-functioning schools are heading toward an adulthood with few bright options and many frustrations. Cheated by their schools, they're turned out into society under-educated and lacking the ability to think critically. With what they've been given, they can't succeed. In a nation that claims "Our children are our greatest resource" that is nothing short of criminal.
I urge you to read The Influence of Teachers. Encourage parents, teachers, administrators, superintendents to do the same. Come armed with it to the fall's first PTO meeting. Get real about what's broken in your school. Use John Merrow's strong recommendations and work together. We've got to do this for our kids. If not, they can rightly assume we don't care all that much about them or the country's future.
The writing is clear, however, and the author makes valid points. With a different title we'd give it 5 stars.
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