27 February 2002
city Teachers: Essay Teaching and School Reform in Historical Perspective
New York: Teachers College Press. 1997
This book is very greatly written. The book gives many insights into teachers lives and work during the third decade of the twentieth century. The main focus of this book is about New York teachers, although the author does give information on teachers elsewhere. The book answers many question but it also leaves you with many questions that were not answered.
I will try to identify areas in which this book advances our understanding of these issues, and problems or limitations in its discussion of them.
Rousmaniere arguments in the book were that the work of teachers changed following the First World. The reason why was because of efficiency-minded administrative practices and the emergence of a social competence program in New Yorks public schools. She use information from the interviews with 21 former teachers and other sources to conclude that the work of teachers intensified as new tasks were assigned to them. She also suggested that their working conditions weaken in other ways. She also argued that teaching began to hold stable profession for women, but it also became more difficult and less fulfilling.
The book notes that many of the circumstances which affected teachers at that time had existed earlier too. The administrative concerns with effectiveness and stability had been a problem in New York and other places since the 1920s. Rousmaniere gives evidence that during the opening decades of the twentieth century, teachers were affected by major curricular changes. Teacher that are in the twenties appear to have worked within a bureaucratic, differentiated modern school system quite similar to those that had evolved in a number of cities since the latter nineteenth century.
Rousmaniere documented reactions of teachers to urban school life in the twenties. She identified social efficiency with the growing array of new tasks for teachers.
She also notes that most teachers probably ignored curricular reform efforts, whether in the twenties or earlier. The book describes the great amount of paperwork city teachers were required to do. The lives of New Yorks teachers in the early twentieth century seem to be similar to those of todays teachers. She also talks about the condition of the city schools. She basically says that the workplace condition effect the teachers. But I dont think that is a good reason because if a teacher really was focus on teaching students then it wouldnt matter.
Other parts of the book raise interesting questions, but do not provide fully developed answers. She mentions a survey but do not provide details about the findings. She talks about the policy on married teachers in New York but do not fully explore the effect of such a policy at the time. She does not give ages or ethnic compositions of the teachers. In the end, it is like she wants to suggest that teachers had hard times in New York in the early twentieth century. The historical reality of teachers lives in this era was complex, and different types of education identify the factors that affected their work and their behavior.
I recommend undergraduate teaching to read this book. May students will find it easily reached and inspiring.