On the Start of the New Year

David Donahue

David Donahue
Director, Leo T. McCarthy Center

The same week that I started as the new Director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good, I finished reading Teacher Wars, Dana Goldstein’s history of the teaching profession in the United States.

Teacher Wars

Her chapter on recent, data driven educational reform described a charter school classroom that motivated children with a song about why they were learning: “cause knowledge is power, and power is money, and I want it!” (Goldstein, 2014). The same chapter reported that teachers were discouraged from focusing on unquantifiable goals, like developing students’ sense of citizenship, no matter how worthy those goals might be.

The McCarthy Center’s vision to create a just and humane world by preparing ethical public servants stands in stark contrast to Goldstein’s depressing vignettes. As I learn about USF faculty creating classroom experiences that transform students’ mission in life and about staff developing community engaged programs that make a real difference to individuals and organizations in San Francisco and the world, I couldn’t be more optimistic that the classrooms described by Goldstein do not have to shape our civic destiny.

ACE classroom

I am convinced that the McCarthy Center’s work to prepare students for public service is more crucial at this moment in our nation’s educational history than ever. I couldn’t be more motivated, inspired, or proud to work with the staff, affiliated faculty, community partners, and board members of the McCarthy Center to shape education that prepares students for participating in democratic life and leading lives of purpose. I look forward to a year — and years — of working at USF to support teaching and learning based on the Jesuit tradition of education for the common social good, not merely individual financial benefit. I look forward to meeting all of you who share this vision and welcome your participation.

Reference: Goldstein, Dana.  The Teacher Wars:  A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.  (New York: Random House, 2014), p. 203.

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