In these affectionate letters to Francesca, a first grade teacher at an inner-city school in Boston, Jonathan Kozol vividly describes his repeated visits to her classroom while, under Francesca’s likably irreverent questioning, he also reveals his own most personal stories of the years that he has spent in public schools.
Letters to a Young Teacher reignites a numberof the controversial issues Jonathan has powerfully addressed in recent years: the mania of high-stakes testing that turns many classrooms into test-prep factories where spontaneity and critical intelligence are no longer valued, the invasion of our public schools by predatory private corporations, and the inequalities of urban schools that are once again almost as segregated as they were a century ago.
But most of all, these letters are rich with the happiness of teaching children, the curiosity and jubilant excitement children bring into the classroom at an early age, and their ability to overcome their insecurities when they are in the hands of an adoring and hard-working teacher.
About the Author
JONATHAN KOZOL is the author of Death at an Early Age, The Shame of the Nation, and Savage Inequalities. He has been working with children in their inner-city schools for more than 40 years.
“Kozol’s love for his students is as joyful and genuine as his critiques of the system are severe. He doesn’t pull punches.”
“[Charts] the positive tension between his lifelong indignation and the renewable joy of being in the classroom, something essential to all good teaching.”
—Los Angeles Times
“In lovingly supportive letters to a young woman on her first job as a first grade teacher, Kozol brings us heartwarming stories of the magic of kids who delight in words like ‘wiggly’ and ‘wobbly,’ ‘bamboozle’ and ‘persnickety’–and who could resist a child called Pineapple? This remarkable book is a testament to teachers who not only respect and advocate for children on a daily basis but who are the necessary guardians of the spirit. Every citizen who cares about the future of our children ought to read this.”
—Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar
“What a wonderful book! Anyone who cares about rebuilding our public education system should read it. I could not put it down!”
—Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, Stanford University
“This book cuts to the heart of the matter of what it means to be a teacher today. The truth about testing, vouchers and their impact on public schools–it’s all captured here. But here, too, we also experience the exhilaration of putting together lesson plans, the joys of comforting children, and the anxiety of a teacher’s first days in school. Francesca’s journey will leave you hopeful for our nation’s children.”
—Reg Weaver, President, National Education Association
“Jonathan Kozol’s advice to the teacher Francesca shows all the qualities that make him the nation’s wisest and boldest and most clear-headed writer on education: his passion for teaching, his respect for students, his refusal to submit to the stifling demands of the educational bureaucrats in and out of government. He tells personal classroom stories with a refreshing honesty, and conveys the excitement and joy of preparing a new generation to remake the world. Teachers, students, parents alike will find this book inspiring.”
—Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States
“In these letters Kozol establishes a sense of trust with his readers exactly as he did with his students in Boston many years ago. His wisdom and humility come through so clearly that you have to wonder why everyone who works with children and teachers cannot be as clear-thinking and genuine. This book is a tutorial in humanity from one of America’s greatest educators and social commentators. It should be read by every new teacher in our public schools.”
—David Berliner, author of Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools
“With Letters to a Young Teacher, Jonathan Kozol reminds us that teaching remains a wonderful and essential calling. Committed, gifted teachers who recognize the 'inherent value' of every child are needed now more than ever. I hope this inspiring book will spark a new generation of teacher-leaders heeding Kozol's passionate call and example.”
—Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund
“In Letters to a Young Teacher, Kozol’s tone is conversational but his challenge to all of us is urgent. On a range of educational questions–segregation, vouchers, testing, and the profession of teaching–his perspective is informed by a gentle perplexity that sometimes spikes into outrage. ‘How can this be?’ he seems to ask us. ‘How can we allow this to happen to our children?’ The more people who read him, the greater our chances of climbing out of the dark hole into which American education has fallen–or been pushed.”
—Alfie Kohn, author of The Schools Our Children Deserve and The Homework Myth