Teaching In America: The Impossible Dream

The new book Teachers Have It Easy, which collects roughly 200 interviews with educators from around the country, couldn't have a more ironic title. Co-written by former teachers Daniel Moulthrop and Nínive Clements Calegari, and author Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), the book highlights the bleak reality that not only are America's teachers grossly underpaid, but that teaching is simply not a sustainable profession it its current form.

Through compelling accounts, Teachers Have It Easy dispels one of the biggest myths about teaching in public schools -- that the paltry salaries educators receive are adequate compensation for summer vacations and "shorter work days." Instead, the book paints a Dickensian picture of our educational system, in which teachers routinely work 10-12 hour days that don't end when the dismissal bell rings.

The idea for the book arose from conversations between Eggers and Calegari, co-founders of the non-profit 826 Valencia, which offers tutoring and writing workshops for youth. (A new center, 826NYC, recently opened in Brooklyn.)

"The idea was Dave's to begin with," Moulthrop told me. "When he was in his twenties, he had friends, including his sister, who were teachers and loved their work. For them it was the best job on the planet. A few years later, they all quit because of the money. It was just a travesty."

Eggers' friends were not the only ones who discovered how impossible it can be to eke out a living as an educator. A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania, as noted in the book, found that 46 percent of teachers leave within their first five years. Such high turnover and instability undoubtedly wreaks havoc on public schools and their respective communities, in which teachers play a vital role.

"If teachers are just leaving at the peak of their game," Moulthrop says, "their students were ill-served by the system."

While Moulthrop is a noted journalist, and Eggers' reputation is well known in the literary world, Teachers Have It Easy succeeds because it allows the underpaid, unappreciated teachers to speak for themselves.

Take Jonathan Dearman, who was the only African American teacher at San Francisco's Leadership High School, a public charter school. Dearman, like so many public school teachers, was beloved

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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