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Kozol and Epstein on Teachery and School Essay

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Updated: Dec 28th, 2021


Kozol’s On being a teacher and Epstein’s Why high school must go contain critical analysis of the contemporary state of schools and further paths of their development. Kozol and Epstein are assured that contemporary schools are not effective, and reformation is required for enhancing the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process. Rethinking the concepts of teachers’ professional behavior, the role of middle schools and the main goal of the educational system, in general, is beneficial for developing teachers’ professional skills.

Kozol’s On being a teacher

Kozol emphasizes the importance of reforming the existing public schools in his work On being a teacher. The author gives preference to awakening students and preparing them for adult life instead of making the educational institutions “seemingly immutable sanctuary of some of the most conservative values of the social order” (p. 3).

The author shares the opinion of the Board of Education of the state of Arizona, asserting that the main obligation of present-day educators is to achieve students’ recognition that “our nation is the envy of the civilized world … the last hope of mankind” (p. 4). The views of Massachusetts educator Horace Mann who focuses on the negative effects of political indoctrination and class stratification at public schools are in painful accord with the Board of Education. Quoting Mann’s words concerning the importance of protection and insurance, teachers should make sure that students understand their meaning. Another outstanding person whose words concerning liberal education might be quoted for supporting the educator’s position is the twenty-eighth president Woodrow Wilson. Kozol (2009) denies the mythical objectives of public schools and draws the parallel to a “consumer fraud” pointing at the phenomena of “false labels, dangerous content and half-empty boxes” as the main drawbacks of the present-day educational programs (p. 7). The author describes the wide discrepancy between the sweet educational goals and the results achieved.

Kozol (2009) sheds light upon the devastating effects of omitting the first-person singular forms ad emphasizes the importance of providing the students with an opportunity to develop their skills of self-presentation. Analyzing the outdated concept of professional behavior, the author recommends educators to be more natural during their classes though not going to the extremes of irresponsible behavior: “Teachers also have the right to laugh, the need to cry, to demonstrate anger, pain, anxiety or fear, right in the classroom just as openly as they might do in their own homes” (p. 13). Another important question raised by Kozol is the lack of opportunities to express one’s extreme ideas: “the bias against extremes is paralyzing in its impact on the teacher and the student both” (p. 16). Teachers should choose the appropriate words for articulating their point of view and not be afraid to choose the words of passion if the substance in question requires it.

Kozol (2009) shifts the emphasis from lesson planning and proclaiming mythical goals of public schools to natural professional behavior of educators able to use the first person pronoun singular and share their true feelings with their students.

Epstein’s Why high school must go

Epstein’s interview with Botstein covers the views which are far from the mainstream, describing the devastating effects of contemporary high schools on teens’ personal development pointing at the necessity of their reformation. The main idea of both educators is that the main goal of high schools should be the preparation of students for their adult life instead of protecting them from their realities.

Botstein defines a high school as an infantilizing structure, not able to provide the students with opportunities to learn when they have the greatest capacity for it. He offered an idea of an early college, aimed at taking teens from the eighth grade and giving them a college education. After successful implementation of this idea at the Bard High School Early College in New York, the Gates Foundation invested about 40 million into replicating versions of similar early colleges. Botstein’s book Jefferson’s children include 24 maxims, one of them concerning the reflection on the exercise of authority was discussed during the interview. The educator emphasizes the importance of students’ ability to differentiate between the legitimate and illegitimate authority and teachers’ ability to confess that they do not know something and to be self-critical while communicating to learners. Botstein points at the devastating effects of the problem of age segregation distorting the students’ views and depriving them of an opportunity to learn the real rule of adult life. “We don’t teach them that the real rules of life are not the rules of Hollywood, not the rules of pop culture, and not the rules of high school” (Epstein, 2007, p. 662). Botstein asserts that a new kind of cross between the college teacher and school teacher is required for enhancing the effectiveness of school education, emphasizing the benefits of narrower college specialization. “The college teacher brings real love of the subject and real competence in the subject area and membership in a community that’s defined by liking to do certain things” (Epstein, 2007, p. 663). After graduation from high school, most students are not ready for studying at college. The school environment should combine the best of college educators’ competence and high school teachers’ willingness to spend time with adolescents. Botstein asserts that due to the weak sides of the state system in general, “the education establishment is routinely committing a kind of crime” (Epstein, 2007, p. 663). The solution to abolish the middle school and concentrate on elementary and secondary levels offered by the educator might seem to be extreme though he provides strong arguments for supporting it. Botstein is assured that the middle school increases age segregation which devastating effects have been discussed during the interview. He considers colleges unwilling to take responsibility for secondary education to be the main opponents to these measures.

Having analyzed the current state of affairs at high schools, Botstein emphasizes the importance of reformation of these institutions offering a cardinal measure of abolishment of the middle school.

The reason for the choice of these

Both Kozol’s On being a teacher and Epstein’s Why high school must go contain innovative ideas for enhancing the contemporary educators’ proficiency and increasing the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process at schools. I share the authors’ opinion that an effective system of education should be aimed at preparing the students for the realities of adult life. My choice of these works was caused by my desire to be in the know of the latest researches in the sphere and further implementation of these principles in practice.

Developing new concepts of a contemporary teacher and natural professional behavior, Kozol influenced the contemporary views of what a good educator should be. The fact that reading his work would be beneficial for developing skills of both young teachers and experienced professionals are undeniable. Though the views of Botstein and his offer to abolish the middle school level entirely might seem to be extreme, despite all the opponents, his views are rather influential as well.

The importance of these to me

Kozol’s and Epstein’s works influenced my views concerning the effective teaching-learning process. It is important that contemporary researchers are not afraid of violating the outdated rules and narrowing the gap between the mythical unachievable educational goals and the school realities.

Kozol’s innovative approach of drawing parallels between the system of education and customer fraud impressed me greatly, it was interesting to view the schools from a new perspective. I think that implementing the principle of natural behavior in class would be beneficial for both reducing educators’ stress caused by controlling their emotions and building bridges for learners at the same time. After reading Botstein’s interview, I became firmly convinced that protecting the students from the realities of adult life is senseless. I suppose that a contemporary educator should strike the right balance between teaching the real rules of life and cultivating belief in universal values.


The materials of Kozol’s and Epstein’s works are aimed at raising the teachers’ awareness of the real goals of the contemporary educational system. Pointing at discrepancies between the mythical goals and methods for achieving them, researchers try to show possible ways for enhancing the effectiveness of contemporary schools. Implementing the principles of natural behavior, using the first person singular pronoun and teaching the true rules of life, educators would be able to prepare students for their college studies and adult life.

Reference List

  1. Epstein, R. (2007). PHI Delta Kappan. Web.
  2. Kozol, J. (2009). On being a teacher. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.
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