Synopses & Reviews
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.
"'Forty years ago, Death at an Early Age catapulted Kozol into national prominence as a compassionate yet clearheaded observer of the rotten state of American education. His latest book reviews many of the basic issues he has spent his life exploring through teaching and writing. Here, he cleverly weaves his observations as well as a thinly disguised biographical memoir into a series of 16 letters written to 'Francesca,' a first-grade teacher at an inner-city public school in Boston. Overall, the book will delight and encourage first-year (or for that matter, 40th-year) teachers who need Kozol's reminders of the ways that their 'beautiful profession' can 'bring joy and beauty, mystery and mischievous delight into the hearts of little people in their years of greatest curiosity.' But his encouraging words rarely lapse into treacle. In fact, he offers tough observations on American education addressed to a larger audience. His forceful opinions are convincingly argued most notably, that educational vouchers will deepen divisions between diverse groups in racially decided cities; that middle schools demoralize students and should be abolished entirely; and that the Gates Foundation made a 'damaging mistake' in aggressively funding a 'small school craze' that will reinforce 'the racial isolation of the students they enroll.' (Sept.)' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"Letters to a Young Teacher could have collapsed under the weight of its own sincerity, but to Kozol's credit, it doesn't." Los Angeles Times
"It must be difficult to be called to report the failure of one of our country's most cherished ideals: a free and equitable education....There are competing agendas in Kozol's book of letters, but the strongest is to inspire and encourage new teachers." Oregonian
"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 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
"[I]t is a privilege to glimpse the joy and struggles within [Francesca's] classroom." Christian Science Monitor
About the Author
Jonathan Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Death at an Early Age, Rachel and Her Children, Savage Inequalities, and Amazing Grace. He has been working with children in inner-city schools for more than 40 years.
Review A Day
"In his most recent book, Letters to a Young Teacher
...Kozol combines his critical observations on today's schools with a memoir of his own experiences as a teacher....He urges young, idealistic white teachers...in poor black urban schools (Kozol's world is often cast strictly in black-and-white) to go to the homes of the seemingly apathetic black parents who eschew PTA meetings." Sandra Tsing Loh, The Atlantic Monthly
(read the entire Atlantic Monthly review