In the midst of the continuing controversy over the right ways to bring change to American schools, Peter Temes's book is a firebell in the night. In Against School Reform Mr. Temes sets out a straightforward prescription for our schools which centers on the life of the individual teacher and rejects the billion-dollar school reform industry. He argues that enormous monies and millions of hours of effort have gone into reforming American schools in the past ten years, and we have precious little to show for it. As we enter a critical period in American history—a growing population, an uncompromising demand for well-educated workers, and the complexities of world politics impacting ordinary people every day—there is not more time or money to waste. In Mr. Temes's view, great teachers are the secret to making better schools. Forget the macro issues of school reform, he advises, and focus on recruiting, retaining, and supporting the very best teachers. Teaching will once again become an elite profession, and school problems will go the way of the trolley car. Against School Reform digs deep into the qualities of great teaching, with stories from real schools and with practical advice for parents, teachers, and students who want to celebrate and support great teachers. It also takes a serious look at what our schools must do to recruit and reward the best teachers in the coming era of teacher shortages. Finally, the book celebrates the power of individual teachers to make a difference in their schools and communities, as forces for bottom-up change. More tests won't fix our schools, Mr. Temes writes. Bigger, better ideas about education won't fix things either. But great teachers can fix our schools, one classroom at a time.
Peter S. Temes is president of the Antioch New England Graduate School and formerly head of the Great Books Foundation. He has taught at every level of American education, including a course on the moral principles of war at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. His has also written The Just War. He lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.