Longform You Have to Read: Dana Goldstein on Education in America


In a world where you have more options for satisfying your longform reading needs than ever, your friends here at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, their status as classics, or just by a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading. This week, since America is going back to school with our new pencils and backpacks, we’re looking at Dana Goldstein’s journalism on education, policy, and politics.

Goldstein, the author of the terrific new book The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession, is a staffer at the new outlet The Marshall Project and is one of the leading voices regarding the state of American education at this exact moment. Wonky and accessible, smart and thorough, the young journalist has made her name through many of the great pieces below.

“Why Not Occupy the Schools?” The Failures of Bloomberg’s School Reform Agenda, The Awl, November 2011

When this piece was written, New York City parents for school reform — the 99% — were making overtures to see if the Occupy movement could be interested in their fight against Bloomberg’s technocratic attempts at school reform. Goldstein neatly outlines the differences between the “average,” “99%” parent’s experience with New York City public schools and what very rich men like Bloomberg were proposing to improve the school system.

Katharine Boo and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc Both Write on Insurmountable Poverty,” The Daily Beast, February 2012

A linked review of Boo and LeBlanc’s new-classic works of journalism, Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Random Family. Goldstein argues that these books incorporate empathy for the poor, a quality necessary if we’re ever going to fairly discuss the poverty problem in the United States and other globalized nations.

How to Fix the Gender Gap in Technology,” Slate, June 2012

Why is there no female Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg? In this piece, Goldstein argues that the tech gap, which stems from a lack of tinkering in tech-minded girls from a young age, can be solved with educational programs getting girls into computer games, rocket-building, and other so-called nerdy pursuits.

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework,” The Atlantic, March 2014

The largest-ever study of how parents affect their students’ academic achievement yielded some surprises for researchers, and Goldstein lays it out clearly. To put it succinctly: don’t meddle, and read to your children.

Who Gets to Control Newark’s Schools?” Slate, May 2014

The schools of Newark, New Jersey have been a political battleground for potential reformers ranging from New Jersey politicians Cory Booker and Chris Christie to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, but the city’s new mayor, Ras Baraka, has a very different educational agenda.