Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite
By his own admission Dr.John Telford is a great man. He believed that he knew what was wrong with education and it motivated him to find ways to correct its problems – especially as it pertained to his black students. He was successful at every level from teacher to superintendent. So, he’s right, he is a great man. He stood up for all the right things, social justice, honesty, opportunity, fairness, and courage. His book could help others to continue his dream.
Unfortunately, despite his motivating thousands of students, teachers, parents, and administrators to be more open and realize that they could be successful he admits that racism and classism still has strongholds. They are not just in the minds of whites, but the belief
in their genetic inferiority pervades the minds of black and Hispanic students, their parents, and their subcultures of poverty.
Drug laws breed crime, entitlements kill ambition, and racism destroys opportunities in schools and for jobs. The latter are reasons that teaching and learning becomes difficult or impossible.
Also Dr.T’s (and others’) many effective practices were (are) threatening to community beliefs and to those with greater legal powers. The jealousies, pettiness and covert and overt hostility to sensible challenges to those powers he met head on as he refused to accept the limitations of racism and classism that their policies used to keep his students in their “place.”
His book is a valuable contribution to those that have tried and will try to change the status quo in – anything! The monolith that is private and public education is a formidable monster supported by many vested interests that resist any change. His book focuses on what
those in the higher echelons do and the horrific effects on the entire system.
John’s struggles and firings demonstrate that even someone with his knowledge, successes, and many supportive people in power were not enough. The structure is awesome as it swallows up people and ideas and it’s a wonder that anything improves. I wish I shared his optimism that Obama will bring change, but I see him getting bad advice. Solutions are complicated and top down management and coercion are not the answer.
I find John a kindred spirit. My many books about education chronicle much of the same successes that he managed as he effectively taught the allegedly unteachable. In 1966 I went to the school board to point out the statistical absurdity and obvious racism of supposedly only 5 gifted students in my elementary school with a black population of 800 students. In 1970 I sold a book I titled, We, the Victims, with the message that everyone in society is victimized by racism. It’s been revised as RACISM, 70’s Style. (Much has improved, but much still needs to be done.)
That book documented racism in our society just “ABUSES” shows how every segment of society shares some degree of blame for its problems – not only incompetent or corrupt administrators. Power, no matter how small, is a heady drug for anyone! It needs legal balances.
I give Dr.Telford 5 stars because he lived up to his promise of telling us about social injustice and offered many ways to fight it. He’s still running strong and I admire his stamina and courage.