When I first wrote this book in 1991 I was very concerned with a number of disturbing educational trends operating in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The following is the preface I wrote delineating those concerns and their relationship to Teachers As Researchers:
I am a teacher. I want to do good work. Having attended, worked in, and visited many schools in North America, I believe that at the end of the twentieth century teaching is not good work. As I listen to teachers talk about their jobs or watch hierarchical interactions between administrators and teachers, I sense a crisis in the teaching profession. Never sure that I am characterizing the crisis accurately, I listen intensely to the brilliant teachers who talk to me of resigning, to the brilliant teacher education students who can't get hired or who have trouble in student teaching because of their intelligence, and to the great teachers who have worked invisibly for years, rarely rewarded for their dedication.
The crisis seems to have something to do with a general lack of consciousness-a garbled sense of purpose, of direction. What I feel in the schools is not simply a failure of schools and school leaders, but a more general inability of Western peoples to conceptualize a system of meaning-i.e., an ethical sense on which they can build humane and evolving institutions. The only social/ educational visions which have gained public attention in the last years of the twentieth century have come from people like Ronald Reagan or William Bennett who offer a misleading vision of a return to a romanticized past, a golden era when teachers enforced rules and students learned the basics. Such an authoritarian vision underlines the crisis I describe; it lays the foundation for educational reform movements that assume that if order can be reestablished, if educational leaders can just lay out what it is teachers should do and teachers just do it, schools may return to their previous glory.
Such a socio-educational vision is naive and dangerous, viewing schools as if they had nothing to do with the world that