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A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. While support for public education today is stronger than ever, the movement to save our schools remains fragmented, variable, and voluntary. Meanwhile, those set on destroying this beloved institution are unified, patient, and well-resourced. In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, co-hosts of the popular education podcast Have You Heard, lay out the increasingly potent network of conservative elected officials, advocacy groups, funders, and think tanks that have aligned behind a radical vision to unmake public education. They describe the dogma underpinning the work of the dismantlers and how it fits into the current political context, giving readers an up-close look at the policies—school vouchers, the war on teachers’ unions, tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and more—driving the movement’s agenda. Finally they look forward, surveying the world the dismantlers threaten to build. As teachers from coast to coast mobilize with renewed vigor, this smart, essential book sounds an alarm, one that should incite a public reckoning on behalf of the millions of families served by the American educational system—and many more who stand to suffer from its unmaking.


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A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. A trenchant analysis of how public education is being destroyed in overt and deceptive ways—and how to fight back Betsy DeVos may be the most prominent face of the push to dismantle public education, but she is in fact part of a large movement that’s been steadily gaining power and notching progress for decades—amassing funds, honing their messaging, and crafting policies. While support for public education today is stronger than ever, the movement to save our schools remains fragmented, variable, and voluntary. Meanwhile, those set on destroying this beloved institution are unified, patient, and well-resourced. In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, co-hosts of the popular education podcast Have You Heard, lay out the increasingly potent network of conservative elected officials, advocacy groups, funders, and think tanks that have aligned behind a radical vision to unmake public education. They describe the dogma underpinning the work of the dismantlers and how it fits into the current political context, giving readers an up-close look at the policies—school vouchers, the war on teachers’ unions, tax credit scholarships, virtual schools, and more—driving the movement’s agenda. Finally they look forward, surveying the world the dismantlers threaten to build. As teachers from coast to coast mobilize with renewed vigor, this smart, essential book sounds an alarm, one that should incite a public reckoning on behalf of the millions of families served by the American educational system—and many more who stand to suffer from its unmaking.

30 review for A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I've been reading the book, in chunks, for the past week. Mostly, because it's a book best approached through a thoughtful, read/reflect fashion. When I started reading it, I realized that it was likely that I would have encountered most, if not all, the ideas included, and supporting evidence that public education was, in fact, being systematically dismantled. I knew I could skim though--check, been there, read that, check, agree, agree--but would benefit more if I could see how all the dots co I've been reading the book, in chunks, for the past week. Mostly, because it's a book best approached through a thoughtful, read/reflect fashion. When I started reading it, I realized that it was likely that I would have encountered most, if not all, the ideas included, and supporting evidence that public education was, in fact, being systematically dismantled. I knew I could skim though--check, been there, read that, check, agree, agree--but would benefit more if I could see how all the dots connected. In the last chapter of the book, the authors (there are two--not certain why this edition only shows one) share a story of having an education scholar review an earlier draft of the book. She asks 'Do you want to scare people?' and they acknowledge that yes, the purpose of the book is assembling data and patterns that tell us where public education is headed, unless there are some drastic changes in policy and practice. We *should* be apprehensive--there are well-funded groups whose goal is just that: taking down public education and selling it off for parts. The best parts of the book are the last few chapters, wherein the end game is revealed. Berkshire and Schneider aren't overly optimistic, and don't offer recommendations. They'll probably take some heat for that (why does every book have to present a solution?) but I think the assembled data shows very clearly that there will always be school-as-we-know-it for the rich. The schools where students have classmates, wholesome activities and challenging curricula (not to mention fully prepared teachers) will always exist, because they're worth the cost. It's also clear that educating the poor and those with academic difficulties will move further down the list of priorities, unless something changes. The solution is likely to be political and the authors mostly stay out of politics--also good, because it might mean that the book draws readers across the political spectrum. It's an outstanding, readable book, and a must for parents and policy-makers as well as educators. The wolf is indeed at the door.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Barbaro

    Excellent overview of the current changes K12 education is undergoing that ultimately aims to dismantle the public education system in favor of a privatized, market-based, deregulated business. Must read if you care about the future of our children’s education.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    One of the most coherent and thorough explanations of the current educational landscape. Though laced with inherent bias, the work brings a sense of balance to the perspectives surrounding school choice and highlights the objectives of prominent leaders in education. The book frames American schools as though they are in a perilous position, as evidenced by the title, and presents a call to action.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Claudia

    I blogged my review here: https://fourthgenerationteacher.blogs... I blogged my review here: https://fourthgenerationteacher.blogs...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dan Philibin

    Gave a clear, well-explained overview of all the current threats to public education and the efforts to dismantle it. My main takeaway is that for as big, bureaucratic, and expensive as public schools can be, they provide tremendous value to communities, and there are good reasons for why the system is the way it is. Deep-pocketed groups have been trying for decades to dismantle public education, and have only been able to chip away at it — in part because public education is still highly popular Gave a clear, well-explained overview of all the current threats to public education and the efforts to dismantle it. My main takeaway is that for as big, bureaucratic, and expensive as public schools can be, they provide tremendous value to communities, and there are good reasons for why the system is the way it is. Deep-pocketed groups have been trying for decades to dismantle public education, and have only been able to chip away at it — in part because public education is still highly popular with the public. It's disheartening to hear that behind these efforts are not motives of improving education quality and equity (though they are marketed as such, of course), but motives of profit and, I suspect, curriculum micromanagement by conservatives who are quickly losing favor with the public. However, it's encouraging to learn of the power that public teachers unions and teachers' strikes still have and the public's unwavering refusal to give up on their local public education systems. Would be curious to learn more about: the changes the author feels are necessary to improve or strengthen public education; the increasing value schools provide to communities who are seeing many of their remaining 'fourth places' disappear; and the successes and failures of standardized testing, which will likely be the subject of my next read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andy Mitchell

    In the following twelve well-researched and accessible chapters, you will be taken on a whirlwind tour of national education policies often supported by both Democrats and Republicans: 1) Private Values 2) Faith in Markets 3) The Cost-Cutting Crusade 4) The War on Labor 5) Neo-Vouchers 6) The Pursuit of Profit 7) Virtual Learning 8) The End of Regulation 9) Don't Forget to Leave Us a Review 10) Selling School 11) Teaching Gigs 12) Education, à la Carte Every administration since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s In the following twelve well-researched and accessible chapters, you will be taken on a whirlwind tour of national education policies often supported by both Democrats and Republicans: 1) Private Values 2) Faith in Markets 3) The Cost-Cutting Crusade 4) The War on Labor 5) Neo-Vouchers 6) The Pursuit of Profit 7) Virtual Learning 8) The End of Regulation 9) Don't Forget to Leave Us a Review 10) Selling School 11) Teaching Gigs 12) Education, à la Carte Every administration since Ronald Reagan in the 1980s has supported most of the approaches to public education described in these chapters. The wealthy will always be able to afford small classes with experienced teachers. For the masses, the goal is to reduce costs. As we've learned during the pandemic, teachers can't be replaced with computer screens and families and students benefit greatly from in-person schooling. It is definitely worth an investment of your time to read this book. You will learn how and why so many wealthy influencers make a profit by undermining your local public schools. Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the authors' podcast Have You Heard. You should subscribe!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door" by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire is about the simultaneous unraveling and privatization of public school in America. As a former public school teacher and a firm believer in teachers' unions and high-quality public education, the facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privat "A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door" by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire is about the simultaneous unraveling and privatization of public school in America. As a former public school teacher and a firm believer in teachers' unions and high-quality public education, the facts contained in this book about the changes in public education are appalling. In no other areas of public life are Republicans, and even some Democrats, so intent on giving away money than they are when it comes to the privatization of K-12 education. This book also includes some discussion about the thievery of for-profit higher education institutions. This book highlights how there really is zero to be gained from the unraveling of public education. Definitely an important read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Parker Schramme

    Highly recommended this book for anyone interested in education policy. The “wolf” that Berkshire and Schneider are presenting is pervasive in education, yet largely invisible to most stakeholders. This book sharpened my knowledge about education policy and conservative interests within education, and has been a launching point for my understanding of state level education decisions.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Jennings

    A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire (2020) reports on page 195 that, “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible - carrying out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity.” I liked the book and found it to be thorough in it’s focus. The authors focus is how vouchers and tax-credit scholarships divert public funds to private and religiously A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire (2020) reports on page 195 that, “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible - carrying out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity.” I liked the book and found it to be thorough in it’s focus. The authors focus is how vouchers and tax-credit scholarships divert public funds to private and religiously affiliated institutions. Thus, the book’s focus is really on “a” wolf at the schoolhouse door. As the title suggests, by choosing “a” rather than “the”, this book does not try to say that this is “the” only wolf at the schoolhouse door. The authors give the reader a comprehensive view of one of the many potential and real “wolves” that make up the challenges today’s public education face. I recommend it. And I recommend that, for those that want to embrace the complexity of the many potential metaphorical “wolves” threatening schools as society attempts to ‘carry out the work of human improvement in a country riven by racial, economic and geographic inequity’ to consider the following examples of inquiries. Should America strive to help all (each and every) student benefit from the academic, social, emotional and relational opportunities of schooling? Do we want and are we willing to ensure that our schools are fair to each student? If we value fairness, then we have to agree on how to be fair. Will America achieve fairness by treating each and every student equal, regardless of a student’s need or by treating students differently depending upon their needs? Is America ready to consider what the difference between an equatable and equal education? Which needs should we focus on with equity? Does America want public money to go to private and/or religious entities for schooling? On an operational level; how can American most effectively use our resources to ensure that all students have an equatable (not equal) opportunity for positive outcomes? Yes, the list of inquiries that encompass the complexity of this issue would be potentially much bigger. Back to - A Wolf At The Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School by Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, I think it is a very good read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    My struggles as an educator can be summed up in one sentence from page 195: “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible—carrying out the work of human improvement in a country driven by racial, economic, and geographic inequity.” The pandemic and remote learning has only amplified the truth embedded in this quote. Schools are expected to make up for disparities created by a history of disenfranchisement, discrimination, and privilege. As I give this book 4 stars, I can’t help but thin My struggles as an educator can be summed up in one sentence from page 195: “Schools are already charged with doing the impossible—carrying out the work of human improvement in a country driven by racial, economic, and geographic inequity.” The pandemic and remote learning has only amplified the truth embedded in this quote. Schools are expected to make up for disparities created by a history of disenfranchisement, discrimination, and privilege. As I give this book 4 stars, I can’t help but think of the chapter where Berkshire and Schneider dissect the rating system in the US. Once left up to experts, now ratings and reviews are done by any consumer - like me. Thus, my four star review is arbitrary. That being said, this book got me thinking. I’m an 8th grade public school teacher, but I can see how expectations placed on me are driven by outside threats of privatization. I am expected to raise test scores (see above paragraph about disparities). I am expected to implement personalized learning, blended learning, and more. The more technology I use the better. My school district purchases technologies that differentiate and which meant to make my job easier. After reading this comprehensive look into a push for free market education, no wonder I face the impossible expectation of individualizing my instruction. I know why I chose to read this book, but I wonder if any public school opponents will choose to read about the threats to public school. I’m not so sure, but at least this book helped give me some arguments to defend public education — although I wish more time was given to argue FOR public education, not just AGAINST school choice and privatization. As a result, I finished this book with more questions than answers, two of them being: 1. What is the purpose of public education? 2. In my state, there doesn’t seem to be talk of school choice and vouchers, but charter and magnet schools are prominent. Where does my state fall into the push for privatization? Overall, this book paints a clear picture of the threats to public education, but I wish more had been done to explain WHY we care that public education is being threatened.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

    Of the many things the pandemic has revealed about our nation, one of the more dismaying is how imperfect a grasp we have on the role of our public schools. Over and over again, I read hand-wringing items in the papers bemoaning the lack of learning taking place over remote learning, accompanied with importations to “open the schools” and “reach our kids.” These are the same writers, of course, who complain about how the schools are not singlehandedly erasing the achievement gap or getting our k Of the many things the pandemic has revealed about our nation, one of the more dismaying is how imperfect a grasp we have on the role of our public schools. Over and over again, I read hand-wringing items in the papers bemoaning the lack of learning taking place over remote learning, accompanied with importations to “open the schools” and “reach our kids.” These are the same writers, of course, who complain about how the schools are not singlehandedly erasing the achievement gap or getting our kids to embrace math and science. Oh, the irony. Schneider and Berkshire’s point is clear: public education is under attack, has been under attack for decades and is likely to suffer further blows, even with a Joe Biden in the White House instead of Donald Trump. Corporate interests, privatization agendas, conservative drooling over marketplace logic and union-busting: their argument is fact-heavy and convincing. Their book is short on solutions, but anyone invested already knows what to do: keep banging the drum and pushing against the “schools suck” narrative. Criticism of public education is not likely to abate any time soon, the writers remind us at the end of the book, since such a massive endeavor as trying to teach an entire nation of 50 million children is bound to fall short of any stated ambitions. But in order to see the future of education as per the desires of the corporate, conservative class, all you have to do, according to this book, is look at what Uber has done to its drivers; what the university system has done to its adjuncts; what Amazon reviews and ratings have done to qualified criticism and commentary. If we cease to look at our schools as a common good and look at them the same way we look at burger franchises and cell phone plans, we’re truly sunk. The stakes could not be higher.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greg Bradley

    I believe this book addresses most of the issues facing public education, however it focuses almost exclusively on Devos and big conservative money. They are an issue, but not solely because of the Goldwater/Reagan movement. Some of their momentum comes from the strong left lean of teachers unions. These unions have provided many positives for teachers, but their strong left lean on social issues allows conservatives to use them as a battering ram. During the pandemic we have seen unions push la I believe this book addresses most of the issues facing public education, however it focuses almost exclusively on Devos and big conservative money. They are an issue, but not solely because of the Goldwater/Reagan movement. Some of their momentum comes from the strong left lean of teachers unions. These unions have provided many positives for teachers, but their strong left lean on social issues allows conservatives to use them as a battering ram. During the pandemic we have seen unions push large urban districts to provide online only services, which this book acknowledges is less than best. But the unions which are fond of saying follow the science disagree when the science suggests that reopening schools are what’s best. So in many instances private schools are going on while public schools sit empty.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This book is a pretty comprehensive and concise book about various “school reform” movements in recent US history. But it’s a lot more than that. Jack and Jennifer offer great analysis of when and why ideas have been spread re education and schools by various elites. Even if education is not a particular interest of yours, the book elucidates how language has been and still is being used to distort the meaning of what is happening - not only in schools but in our neo-liberal society at large. Te This book is a pretty comprehensive and concise book about various “school reform” movements in recent US history. But it’s a lot more than that. Jack and Jennifer offer great analysis of when and why ideas have been spread re education and schools by various elites. Even if education is not a particular interest of yours, the book elucidates how language has been and still is being used to distort the meaning of what is happening - not only in schools but in our neo-liberal society at large. Terms like “bundling”, “value added metrics”, “accountability” and “right-sizing” may sound familiar in relation to many issues. See this review https://teacherinastrangeland.blog/20... The authors, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider produce a podcast that is a lot of fun and very informative - it’s called, “Have you heard?” I highly recommend it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    The authors seem to only use politically charged language to scare people, by their own admission in the conclusion, about a political movement they don't like. This book lacks any real argument beyond rich people, Republicans, and those that disagree with the authors are bad. I'd appreciate a real premise and support rather than a series of quotes and statements with buzzwords. The authors seem to only use politically charged language to scare people, by their own admission in the conclusion, about a political movement they don't like. This book lacks any real argument beyond rich people, Republicans, and those that disagree with the authors are bad. I'd appreciate a real premise and support rather than a series of quotes and statements with buzzwords.

  15. 4 out of 5

    S.

    Very leftist book that pins all the blame of a failing public school system on conservatives, despite both liberals and conservatives are to blame. If you're a leftist, enjoy the book, if you're a moderate independent like me, read with a grain of salt, if you're a conservative, skip it. Very leftist book that pins all the blame of a failing public school system on conservatives, despite both liberals and conservatives are to blame. If you're a leftist, enjoy the book, if you're a moderate independent like me, read with a grain of salt, if you're a conservative, skip it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda Saleski

    If we had spent the dollars provided to the for-profit charter schools on reducing class size and addressing the barriers of poverty for children and families instead, we would have served the community and invested in helping all children succeed.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    an interesting and horrifying overview of what the koch et. al. crew have been up to on the education front

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Acosta-Fox

    An insightful and critical read. If public education is to survive the coming decades (years?), we need more writings like this providing the diagnosis and the blueprint.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Juliana

    All in all, having read this book I feel horrified but so much more aware of the plot against public education.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    Must read!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sam Zito

    Even though I'm a leftist, I did not enjoy the arguments presented in this book. I thought they were very repetitive, and not fleshed out completely. It seemed more like an attack on the right, rather than an informative book about the schooling system. Just feel that the arguments could have been a lot more impactful if they were going against the problems rather than the people implementing the problems. Too politically clouded to be taken seriously. Even though I'm a leftist, I did not enjoy the arguments presented in this book. I thought they were very repetitive, and not fleshed out completely. It seemed more like an attack on the right, rather than an informative book about the schooling system. Just feel that the arguments could have been a lot more impactful if they were going against the problems rather than the people implementing the problems. Too politically clouded to be taken seriously.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cleo

    In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider go beyond talking about the "dismantling of public education' solely in terms of the school choice movement or the reliance on standardized test scores. Their book explores other aspects of the conservative agenda as it relates to public education that generally speaking receive less attention: virtual schooling, unbundling education, deregulation, limiting the role of organized labor and so-called 'personalized learning.' In A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider go beyond talking about the "dismantling of public education' solely in terms of the school choice movement or the reliance on standardized test scores. Their book explores other aspects of the conservative agenda as it relates to public education that generally speaking receive less attention: virtual schooling, unbundling education, deregulation, limiting the role of organized labor and so-called 'personalized learning.' Both in laying out the current state of public education, particularly the agenda pursued by Secretary of Education DeVos and laying out some of the historical context, Berkshire and Schneider provide an extensive yet well laid out and easily understandable assessment of the issues at play specifically given the funding and efforts being allocated toward a very specific agenda. A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door is a must read for anyone interested in the current state and future of public education.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heather Lyon

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cov

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jan Bayer

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  28. 4 out of 5

    Heather Munao

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Kearney

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katarina

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