As we reported in 2009, Tony Danza, the actor best known for playing the loveable housekeeper in the 1980’s sitcom “Who’s the Boss,” spent a year teaching at a public high school in Philadelphia. And now—surprise, surprise—he’s written a book about the experience.
In a related opinion piece in USA Weekend, Danza shares some of the lessons he learned from having “gone toe-to-toe with a class of Philadelphia 10th-graders for an entire year.”
The piece is not an attempt to guide policy or even stake a claim in the reform debate. The takeaways are few and simplistic. Parents need to be more involved, he writes. Society needs to push back against constant messaging within pop culture—from the likes of the Jersey Shore cast, rap stars, and “the banker who makes a fortune in a system that seems rigged"—that hard work is irrelevant to success. And kids need to take responsibility for their learning, regardless of where they’re in school and who’s the (I’ll refrain from making the easy pun here) teacher.
“The bottom line: Kids need to want it,” Danza writes. “We can’t want them to get an education more than they want it for themselves.” While teacher training emphasizes engaging students, he says, “it strikes me that what we really need are students to engage in their own education.”
Seems to me Danza may not be making too many educator friends churning out big-picture advice after just one year in the classroom (though it was an “entire” year). But maybe the book is geared toward parents and kids more than teachers (I can’t say because I haven’t read it yet). Also, is it just me or does the essay smack of blame-passing—rather than acknowledging his own inexperience he deduces that kids and parents need to try harder? (Then again, teachers with much more experience sometimes speak in similar terms.)
The book, smartly titled I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had, will be published in September.
Teachers: How does all this sit with you? Do you agree with his lofty takeaways? Any interest in reading his book?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.