In This Review

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools
Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America's Schools
By Steven Brill
Simon & Schuster, 2011, 496 pp


The battle for the United States’ future is being fought in its classrooms. Class Warfare is a gripping account of the fierce combat between reformers and their opponents -- principally the teachers’ unions. Although the narrative sometimes loses its thread, Brill generally does a remarkable job of weaving the lives and experiences of students, teachers, and officials into a coherent story. The distance between the education reformers and the business-as-usual unions and bureaucracies that run the public schools disturbs Brill -- as it should. The charter school movement and the Teach for America program both rely heavily on young, idealistic teachers who often do extraordinary work for a few years but then burn out. The bureaucracies and the career public school teachers are usually less impressive, but they are in it for the long haul. Neither group alone can consistently deliver strong results for the majority of children over the long term. But the two approaches to education are so different that it is hard to get lifers and drop-ins to collaborate. Brill does not solve this dilemma, but he gives readers a clear view of the evolving relationship between the two forces.