Clickety's Reviews > Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools

Class Warfare by Steven Brill
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Aug 26, 2011

did not like it

I guess this is what you get when a journalist sells out to the mega-rich. (Perhaps it's no coincidence that "Brill" rhymes with "shill.") The book is riddled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, and topped off with a dash of slander.

on page 7, we hear that 'teaching counted more than anything else.' WRONG. The single greatest factor influencing a student's achievement (and a school's achievement overall) is wealth. Teaching counts more than anything else within the school walls - but if you don't add that qualifier, the statement is inaccurate.

page 25, ooh look, international test results! Once again, a gross misrepresentation of the FACTS. Countries that score well on these tests have very low levels of child poverty (did you know that the US now leads the world? we have more children in poverty than any other developed nation! go us!) and when you compare those countries with US schools that have similar socioeconomic status, US SCHOOLS DO BETTER. In fact, if you compare our high-poverty schools with high-poverty schools in other countries, US SCHOOLS DO BETTER.

This manufactured crisis goes all the way back to the '60s (remember Sputnik?) when we were destined for ruin because we ranked not just in the middle, but DEAD LAST in international test results. Yet somehow the US remains a dominant force internationally.

page 113 references the so-called "Florida Miracle" without noting that all of the measures listed can be rigged by lowering standards. More students took AP exams? Great! What did those scores look like, again?

page 304 references Diane Ravitch's speaking fees (which at $10k per talk are a small fraction of Michelle Rhee's standard $50k per talk). Does Brill not realize that public speaking is WORK? Seriously, WTF, Brill? She is getting paid to speak TO them, not FOR them, which is what he seems to be trying to hint at.

This book is just SUCH a disgrace. I don't call myself a journalist, and I'm STILL embarrassed, simply on behalf of those who do.

On the other hand, it is well-written and I didn't notice any grammatical errors (though that may have been because I was distracted by, oh, EVERYTHING ELSE). Perhaps if it had been marketed as a novel -- or heck, even a memoir -- I wouldn't be so thoroughly disgusted.
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Comments (showing 1-7)

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message 7: by Kim (new)

Kim Thanks for taking one for the team in reading this one, Clickety.

message 6: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Sorensen Well, at least we have great corporate welfare...err...I mean military spending.

Clickety I'm glad I didn't have to BUY it. But as funds for public libraries are cut, and Borders has closed, I don't know how much longer I'm going to have the option to read books without sending money to their producers. :P It'll be very difficult to give reviews that don't gush praise.

message 4: by Shawn (new)

Shawn Sorensen There's still Barnes & Noble and plenty of independent bookstores...

Heidi I have seen many underprivileged kids, even those who don't speak English at home, make incredible strides when taught by a good teacher. It saddens me that so many people just say "It's all about poverty, and if you're poor you can't learn." This is an excuse for not achieving. The kids I have met are starving for good learning and when they get it they leap to it.

Emily Heidi wrote: "I have seen many underprivileged kids, even those who don't speak English at home, make incredible strides when taught by a good teacher. It saddens me that so many people just say "It's all about..."

Yes, I hear you. However, nobody is saying that poor kids can't learn. What they ARE saying is that, students living in poverty end up falling behind in school, for a number of reasons. Therefore, teachers are pushing for more resources (including more teachers, for example, a reading resource teacher to come into the classroom and teach a struggling 6th grade phonemic awareness), more time to do their work, and, usually, a larger salary if they're spending more of their time in the classroom with students. ONE teacher shouldn't do it alone, TFA-style, so they're burnt out in 2 years. That makes no sense, and they spend their entire first year just figuring out how to teach, and they never become REALLY good at teaching before they leave for something else.

Caroline I started reading this after finishing Dana Goldstein's The Teacher Wars and I just couldn't get past about page 50.

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