"What are we doing to prepare our children for their chosen futures?"

A teacher expertly examines the current American educational system from multiple angles, using hard facts, concomitant history, and some enlivening recollections from his twenty years in the classroom. Murphy had always nursed a wish to be a teacher, but teachers were underpaid when he had to decide what profession to pursue. In addition, the jobs available were few. By 1997, after a business career, he took the plunge, gaining the credentials needed to work in his dream career. He spent the required time as a substitute teacher and was subjected to numerous standards and evaluations until finally securing full-time work. At first, this was as a computer instructor and then as a history teacher at the high school level. He discovered one important fact very quickly: teaching is a lonely job. Teachers work alone and have little contact with workmates. He also found that the generation he was teaching had very different values from his own.

This insider's view of the educational system, as presented by Murphy, is both disturbing and very informative. Consider, for example, the need for a student to maintain a certain grade level while demonstrating little interest in doing so. Parents, expecting the school to partner in raising their child, may intervene, even threaten the teacher's livelihood if he or she gives a justifiably low grade that might negatively affect the child's future. This is especially noticeable in private schools where parents pay substantial fees for the child's education but no less crucial in typical and very diverse school atmospheres where the youngster's earning capacity is of critical importance to the family. Another thorny issue is that of the school systems themselves, in which standards for teachers and programs for students constantly change, sometimes for political reasons. One example is the nation's Common Core curriculum, which, Murphy points out, could be considered an abridgment of states' rights to dictate educational policies. Yet the Common Core has some positive aspects, as do teachers' unions, no matter what one may feel about such structures in general.

Murphy begins each chapter in this densely informative treatment with a simple question and answer, such as, "Q: Teaching—What Am I Stepping Into? A: You are going to where you are desperately needed." He then helpfully expounds on the issue, in this case pointing out that despite the many changes in culture, demographics, and expectations since the general educational system was first designed, youngsters still need to be inspired, challenged, and encouraged. He has infused his thesis with lengthy historical passages to explain the patterns that many children now share, including mistrust of authority and excessive trust in handheld technologies. He offers dynamic suggestions for changes or enhancements to the educational system, advising a "convoy" of "stakeholders" for each student, regularly scheduled meetings among them, and small but meaningful rewards to the student all along the way. Anyone should seriously consider his well-founded ideas—whether parent, educator, or administrator—who has a genuine interest in the improvement of children's learning life at every level.

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