iOS app Android app

John Thompson
John Thompson was an award-winning historian, lobbyist, and guerrilla-gardener who became an award-winning inner city teacher after crack and gangs hit his neighborhood. He blogs at and is writing a book on 18 years of idealistic politics in the classroom and realistic politics outside. A former oilfield roughneck and hitch-hiker, a current backpacker and Obamamaniac, he is a "people person" who seeks compromises, while defending the principles of the liberal arts and constitutional democracy. He is a nonstop memo writer and enthusiastic basketball player, believing that education is an affair of the heart not a narrow part of the intellect.

Entries by John Thompson

'You Just Heard It!' We Must All Join the Great Truth-Telling Conversation

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 10:39 AM

We often hear that public education suffers from a "culture of compliance." I often add that the refusal of education leaders to speak obvious truths is due to the "blame game," which has created a culture of powerlessness. What I mean, but don't dare articulate, is that education across much...

Read Post

Can Schools Foster the Conversations Necessary to Create Justice?

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 3:45 PM

In 2000, Pat McGuigan, the conservative editor of the Daily Oklahoman, visited our high school government class. This was an exciting time when a bipartisan school improvement coalition, MAPS for KIDS, was sponsoring an ongoing conversation between the full range of community stakeholders and our diverse student bodies.

Read Post

Why Tulsa Teachers Risk Their Jobs to Opt Out of the Testing Madness

(0) Comments | Posted November 25, 2014 | 8:27 AM

Some non-educators are taken aback by the series of reports on the way that testing eats up incredible amounts of class time -- up to 80 days a year. Skeptics might believe that teachers across the nation are suffering from a mass hallucination, or maybe they don't understand the complex...

Read Post

The Wisdom of Kristof's and WuDunn's 'A Path Appears'

(0) Comments | Posted November 17, 2014 | 7:38 PM

A Path Appears, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, begins with a 1921 passage by Chinese essayist Lu Xun:

Hope is like a path in the countryside. Originally, there is nothing -- but as people walk this way again and again, a path appears.

In other words, hope...

Read Post

Lessons of the Democrats' Midterm Fall

(3) Comments | Posted November 5, 2014 | 6:21 PM

Teachers have learned a lesson the hard way, and it should not be lost on the Democratic Party, the Obama administration, or Hillary Clinton. We now understand how hard it is to do our job, and serve our students with one hand, as we fend off test-driven reform with the...

Read Post

Making School Reform a True Civil Rights Movement

(1) Comments | Posted November 2, 2014 | 1:09 PM

Temporarily lost in the edu-politics of the mid-term elections is the importance the letter sent to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders by a coalition of civil rights groups. The coalition wrote, "We must shift towards accountability strategies that promote equity and strengthen, rather than weaken,...

Read Post

Shannon Hernandez and Breaking the Silence

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2014 | 10:14 AM

Shannon Hernandez was a superb teacher. She remains a "big dreamer, an out-of-the-box thinker, a change agent" and, above all, she remains true to the now heretical principle that our job is to "teach students, not subjects." But, like so many other teachers, Hernandez found that test-driven reform was "sucking...

Read Post

Will Bill Gates Read Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch?

(5) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 10:12 AM

I should start my review of Anthony Cody's The Educator and the Oligarch by acknowledging that I blog for Anthony and we've had many, often extended, editorial discussions. There has been a clear pattern with our discussions/debates. My first thoughts on corporate reform have been consistently more moderate than Anthony's....

Read Post

Why Do Reformers Misrepresent the Power of Teachers' Expectations?

(2) Comments | Posted October 20, 2014 | 5:12 PM

Liberal school reformers, such as Russyln Ali, have long argued that if even one "high-flying" high-poverty school can overcome poverty, then teachers in schools that aren't selective, and who serve neighborhoods with intense concentrations of generational poverty, could do the same. Ali claimed, "The biggest challenge these educators...

Read Post

Reflections on the Teaching Coach Who Shadowed Students

(0) Comments | Posted October 15, 2014 | 10:13 AM

For 20 years, I urged colleagues to imagine themselves in the shoes of the students as they go through the school day. I also pushed for more parents shadowing their children at school. Then I read "A Veteran Teacher Turned Coach Shadows 2 Students for 2 Days --...

Read Post

Dana Goldstein Explains How Teachers Became America's Most Embattled Profession

(0) Comments | Posted September 24, 2014 | 10:29 AM

As promised, Dana Goldstein's thoroughly researched The Teacher Wars is more analytic than opinionated. Goldstein's objective narrative of assaults on the teaching profession lets the historical record take the place of commentary.

However, Goldstein's subtitle, "A History of America's Most Embattled Profession," recalls Babe Ruth's alleged prediction of...

Read Post

ISIS Has Shifted Into Second Gear

(0) Comments | Posted September 4, 2014 | 1:48 PM

For those who have not being paying attention, the great Jihad is continuing but with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has finally shifted into second gear. By now it should be evident to anyone but the most callow and most blinkered of us...

Read Post

Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap Is More Relevant Than Ever

(0) Comments | Posted August 20, 2014 | 3:07 PM

When checking out Amanda Ripley's The Smartest Kids in the World, which argues that American education is falling dangerously behind other nations, I stumbled across Tony Wagner's six-year-old The Global Achievement Gap. Wagner begins with a frightening anecdote -- the type that could drive today's frenzied assault on...

Read Post

A Teacher's Plea to President Obama

(1) Comments | Posted August 11, 2014 | 2:12 PM

I became a teacher after Supply Side economics and the Reagan era banking collapse devastated our neighborhood. Three hundred houses were abandoned and the "Hoova" set of the Crips set up dozens of crack houses in vacant properties.

Mr. President, I became attached to the children in the drug...

Read Post

Limousine Liberal David Boies Wants to Fix Our Schools

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2014 | 9:37 AM

They used to be called "Limousine Liberals." Now, dilettantes like David Boies are known as corporate reformers.

Boies has become the kinder, gentler face of the blood-in-their-eye teacher-bashing of Michelle Rhee and Campbell Brown. A board member of Rhee's "astroturf" anti-union StudentsFirstNY, Boies will co-host the Campbell -...

Read Post

The New Yorker Nails the Real Lesson of the Atlanta Testing Scandal

(1) Comments | Posted July 30, 2014 | 11:54 AM

Rachel Aviv's excellent The New Yorker article, "Wrong Answer," hits the proper balance. Aviv rightfully focuses on the conspiracies and the outright cheating in the Atlanta Public Schools. She makes it clear, however, that the real lesson of the scandal is that test-driven accountability is the "Wrong Answer"...

Read Post

Why Neo-Plessyism Failed to Improve Chicago Schools

(1) Comments | Posted July 24, 2014 | 10:22 AM

The market-driven school reform movement intentionally uses test, punish, choice, and no-holds-barred competition to sort and separate students and educators. They scoff at the social science that explains the need for trusting relationships and diversity in schools, as they use the stress of tests and competition to supposedly overcome the...

Read Post

Why Can't Big Data Take a Bow, and Then Contribute to the Collaborative Commons?

(1) Comments | Posted July 14, 2014 | 5:37 PM

Back in the early 1960s, when our elementary school teachers and principal had a particularly important point to make, they brought us across the courtyard into the junior high auditorium. Needless to say, those events made a huge impression. I have a particularly vivid memory of one part of an...

Read Post

Replace Arne Duncan with Secretary of Education Bill Gates

(5) Comments | Posted July 7, 2014 | 12:16 PM

The National Education Association annual conference approved a national campaign for equity and against "Toxic Testing." It seeks to end the "test, blame and punish" system that began under President Bush and which has grown worse under the Obama administration. As outgoing NEA President Dennis Van Roekel says,...

Read Post

Is It Time to Escort Bill Gates Out of Our Schools?

(7) Comments | Posted July 1, 2014 | 6:16 PM

American constitutional democracy seeks a balance between the empowerment of individuals and the checks and balances necessary to protect the rights of the community. Bill Gates, like so many other billionaires, does not seem to respect the wisdom of poet Robert Frost. "Good fences make good neighbors."


Read Post