The Values of American Teachers

How Teachers Values Help Stabilize Unsteady Democracy

By (author) Robert Slater

Publication date:

29 October 2013

Length of book:

138 pages


R&L Education

ISBN-13: 9781475800067

Education today is increasingly focused on tests and testing. Teachers are being judged on how much they can increase test scores from one year to the next. These year-to-year gains in scores are part of a "value-added" approach to teacher evaluation, and value-added teacher assessment is all the rage now. A main point of this book is that while teachers do add value when they enable students to increase their performance on standardized tests, this is neither the only nor the most important value they add. An analysis of 40 years of data on teachers suggests that an equally if not more important value added is their contribution to the stability of our increasingly unsteady democracy. Teachers help steady modern democracy by teaching children the limits of liberty and by cultivating the social virtues--trust, cooperation, helpfulness, and the like--upon which civil society depends. We need not only to recognize this but also to avoid education policies that undermine their willingness and ability to do so.
This excellent book balances larger philosophical issues with empirical data, resulting in a thought-provoking book for teachers, students, and researchers. Historically, teachers have been held to high standards of professional and personal conduct. These high standards are premised on the assumption that teachers are role models for their students and communities. Serving as a role model, moreover, assumes that the teacher deliberately shares values with children as opposed to modeling behaviors and ideas in a less direct fashion. Slater has written a book on these topics that achieves three things. First, it provides a rich context from which to consider teachers and teaching (chapter 1) and values and valuing (chapter 2). Second, it provides empirical data regarding what teachers believe about topics such as family values, religion, various social issues, freedom, equality, and science (chapters 3 through 8). Finally, Slater uses this data to contemplate how the position of the teacher and the expression of values within schools are essential to stabilize the contradictory ideas within a democracy (e.g., freedom while living and learning in a community). Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, graduate students, and research faculty.