As Bad as They Say?: Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx

As Bad as They Say?: Three Decades of Teaching in the Bronx, by Jane Mayer ($11.25)
Essay/Review here.
Amazon: Janet Mayer’s book is a page-turner about real life in urban classrooms today.-Diane Ravitch
Janet Mayer’s As Bad As They Say is a brilliant and badly need answer to business minded ‘educational reformers’ who think that nothing good happened in American education before they took over. The story of a teacher who spent forty years of her life in Bronx public schools, it shows that the love of teachers for their students is the true transformative force in American education, not mindless imposition of standardized tests. Mayer turns her Bronx students, who learn under the most daunting conditions, into heroes, but in the process reminds us that great teachers are motivated by compassion as well as a love of learning. Signficantly, the book ends with a powerful, carefully documented attack on ‘No Child Left Behind’ a piece of legislation that seeks to render great teachers like Mayer irrelevant and invisible.-Mark Naison
“Bravo for Janet Mayer for asking the obvious, but unasked, question and providing us with a different way of answering it. We dare not abandon our public schools on the basis of scare tactics, but need to build on the stories she tells, to learn from them what it is that mattered.”-Deborah Meier, author of Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground
“As Bad As They Say? Is a timely and important book. Janet Mayer’s critical take on No Child Left Behind and the testing mania it’s brought into our schools is right on target and is badly needed. But it’s the stories of her students in the Bronx, whose gifts and talents were suppressed under the rigidity of the federal law–and the ways in which she tried to bring those gifts to life amidst the tough conditions almost all those children faced–that make this book so moving and so powerful.”-Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
“An eloquent reflection on a career in teaching. Mayer’s experiences and the lessons she learns from them are a potent reminder that those who do the hard work of educating our children have insights and wisdom that our policymakers need to hear. If we are to avoid repeating the same mistakes and rehashing old reforms that promise a great deal but rarely deliver, we must listen to educators like Mayer who understand that teaching urban youth must start by affirming their humanity and nurturing their spirits. This book is a must read for those who still believe it is possible to make a difference through education.”-Pedro A. Noguera, author of City Schools and the American Dream: Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education
“Mayer’s love for her students burns through every page of this engaging tour through the decades in a Bronx classroom. Her succinct, lively narratives of pupils who became her ‘heroes,’ coupled with nearly unbelievable descriptions of squalid school conditions, set this education memoir apart.”-Dan Brown, The Great Expectations School: A Rookie Year in the New Blackboard Jungle
“Mayer chronicles the hardships students faced and overcame since she started teaching English in 1960. . . She writes scathingly about the federal programs No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, and denounces mayoral control of the city’s school system, as well as Mayor Bloomberg’s pick for Schools Chancellor, Cathie Black.”-Corinne Lestch, New York Daily News

“There is a truly heroic quality implicit in [Mayer’s] work as a teacher.” –Education Next

“A powerful book.” –Education Review
“Awonderful book that is an antidote to the sham that education “reform” has become. As Bad as they Say? combines Janet’s own story as a teacher with the inspirational, sometimes tragic stories of nine of her students at that Bronx High School. It’s exciting to read a commentary on education written by an actual experienced teacher, and not by one of the cacophony of non-educator voices who have lately drowned out educators with vapid and ill-informed critiques.” –Daily Kos
“. . . draws on the deep experience of a compassionate teacher who finds fault not with teachers, unions, or students, but with a society that refuses to take responsibility for the conditions in which its children live and learn–and who has demonstrated through her own efforts how one dedicated teacher has improved the education of poor young people.”-The New York Review of Books

Product Description

Rundown, vermin-infested buildings. rigid, slow-to-react bureaucratic systems. Children from broken homes and declining communities. How can a teacher succeed? How does a student not only survive but also come to thrive? It can happen, and As Bad as They Say? tells the heroic stories of Janet Mayer’s students during her 33-year tenure as a Bronx high school teacher.In 1995, Janet Mayer’s students began a pen-pal exchange with South African teenagers who, under apartheid, had been denied an education; almost uniformly, the South Africans asked, Is the Bronx as bad as they say? This dedicated teacher promised those students and all future ones that she would write a book to help change the stereotypical image of Bronx students and show that, in spite of overwhelming obstacles, they are outstanding young people, capable of the highest achievements.She walks the reader through the decrepit school building, describing in graphic detail the deplorable physical conditions that students and faculty navigate daily. Then, in eight chapters we meet eight amazing young people, a small sample of the more than 14,000 students the writer has felt honored to teach.She describes her own Bronx roots and the powerful influences that made her such a determined teacher. Finally, the veteran teacher sounds the alarm to stop the corruption and degradation of public education in the guise of what are euphemistically labeled reforms (No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top). She also expresses optimism that public education and our democracy can still be saved, urgently calling on all to become involved and help save our schools.

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