Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools - Steven Brill This was a non-fiction book about the state of the public school system in America and the people who are trying to change it for the better. I don't read/listen to much non-fiction, but Audible had a 3-for-2 sale not long ago, and this looked interesting. And it definitely was.

I'm a little torn on a lot of the things from the book. I can see why teachers initially unionized. At the time, they were being somewhat abused, and by collectively bargaining, they were able to create a palatable working environment and expect certain guarantees about their jobs. But somewhere along the way, those guarantees seems to have gotten out of hand and it became more about the teachers and what they could get than ensuring the children receive a good education. Or that's my interpretation. When a teachers union can write in a guarantee that their pensions will earn 8% interest, regardless of market conditions, teachers who have been accused of wrongdoing remain on the payroll at full salary for months until their case can be addressed, teachers who are underperforming cannot be fired (or even reprimanded)... it seems the union has too much power. The additional money for the pensions reduces the amount available for direct classrom expenses. The extra salaries for people who aren't even working (whether they're in the "rubber rooms" or just incompetent) means that much less money to apply to the kids education. Keeping incompetent teachers cheats kids out of a good education.

At the same time, I think the teaching profession is not respected enough, by either children or parents. Parents need to be objective about their children. No child is perfect. If a teacher says little Joey has an issue in a certain area, maybe he does. You're not with your child all day... the teacher is. And we hear so often of kids backtalking teachers or even threatening them. But that may be part of a comment on society today. Those same kids disrespecting their teachers are probably disrespecting everyone else in authority as well. I also think teachers aren't paid well enough. We need to attract the best and brightest, but when the starting salary is so low, but the education requirements so high, how can we really expect the best and brightest to apply? And with school districts often cash-strapped, teachers often end up dipping into their own pockets (which are shallow anyway) for basic supplies. That seems so wrong to me. At the same time, I can't afford to single-handedly support the needs of an entire school. I'd rather pay more taxes, but at the same time, I'm afraid that extra money would go to administration, not my children's classrooms.

So, on to the next thing I'm torn about. I believe there needs to be some kind of accountability with the public schools to tie additional money to achievement. If a teacher's students consistently test poorly, but the students of other teachers don't, perhaps there's an issue with the teacher. At the same time, I think basing anything strictly on testing forces teachers to teach to the test. And then our children are just regurgitating information instead of learning critical thinking. And I fear some things may not be taught at all if they're not on the test. I hear of schools no longer teaching cursive handwriting because of word processors. And no longer having spelling tests after a certain grade because we have spell check. As a reader of many self-published authors (and even some with big publishers), I know that a spell check is not a fail safe. It can tell you if you spell "accommodate" wrong, but it won't tell you that you should have used "they're" instead of "their" or "you're" instead of "your". Or even "moot" instead of "mute". And even if they could, why shouldn't kids just know the difference?

I did think it was great how many people who had received really good educations really strive to make a difference in the public sector. Harvard-educated lawyers, it seems, have sort of spearheaded the public education reform movement. I think it's very interesting that the same children the public school said couldn't be taught, because of their socio-economic environment, thrived in a charter school environment. I can see that union teachers may see charter schools as the devil, but if they're effective, it might make sense to take a look at what they're doing and see what could be incorporated into public school curricula.

Holy cow, I just wrote a book, lol, but bottom line is that this was a very interesting, thought-provoking book. I don't think charter schools are *the* answer, but I think that some of their ideas are really good. Something needs to happen in US education. We can't keep it at status quo. And I'm hoping that the teachers unions who have taken such a hard line against change can start to compromise. For the good of the children. For the good of the future of our country. Because eventually those kids who aren't receiving the best education will become the leaders.

One last thing. While the book takes a hard look at teacher's unions, I don't believe all teachers follow the union line, at least not down to the letter. I honestly believe most teachers get into the profession because they really want to make a difference. There are lots of really *great* teachers out there in the public school systems. I think the unions have their members' best interests in mind, but sometimes those best interests are contrary to what the kids need. And I think a good many teachers actually realize that.