Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy

Richard D. Kahlenberg, Author, Richard D. Keene, Author . Columbia Univ. $29.95 (552p) ISBN 978-0-231-13496-5

Century Foundation senior fellow Kahlenberg, who has written previously about the public school wars (All Together Now ), paints a gripping portrait of the iconoclastic and often contradictory teacher's union leader Albert Shanker (1928–1997). Born to working-class Russian-Jewish parents on New York's Lower East Side, Shanker worked on a doctorate in philosophy at Columbia by night while teaching by day in East Harlem. During the late '50s he was involved in organizing New York City's United Federation of Teachers, becoming its president in 1964. In 1974 he also became president of the national American Federation of Teachers. In this perceptive biography, Kahlenberg shows that the firebrand union militant who led illegal strikes that closed New York City's public schools in 1967 and 1968 was at the same time a forward-looking educational reformer who, despite pronounced liberal credentials, pushed initiatives that are today associated mostly with conservative educational agendas. Among Shanker's passions were lofty standards, teacher accountability and charter schools. Kahlenberg applauds all this, along with Shanker's fervent anticommunism and his many efforts—regardless of the black-Jewish antagonism the school strikes engendered—to reach out to people of color. The reader comes away admiring a man who navigated troubled times deftly and left behind a record of great accomplishment. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 09/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 552 pages - 978-0-231-50909-1
Paperback - 524 pages - 978-0-231-13497-2
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-231-15475-8
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