Teacher Strike!

Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order
Author: Jon Shelton
The epic story of a time of peak conflict in urban education
Cloth – $110
Paper – $27.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 04/24/2017
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About the Book

A wave of teacher strikes in the 1960s and 1970s roiled urban communities. Jon Shelton illuminates how this tumultuous era helped shatter the liberal-labor coalition and opened the door to the neoliberal challenge at the heart of urban education today.

As Shelton shows, many working- and middle-class whites sided with corporate interests in seeing themselves as society's only legitimate, productive members. This alliance increasingly argued that public employees and the urban poor took but did not give. Drawing on a wealth of research ranging from school board meetings to TV news reports, Shelton puts readers in the middle of fraught, intense strikes in Newark, St. Louis, and three other cities where these debates and shifting attitudes played out. He also demonstrates how the labor actions contributed to the growing public perception of unions as irrelevant or even detrimental to American prosperity. Foes of the labor movement, meanwhile, tapped into cultural and economic fears to undermine not just teacher unionism but the whole of liberalism.

About the Author

Jon Shelton is an assistant professor of democracy and justice studies at University of Wisconsin Green Bay.


"An important book both historiographically and in terms of its relevance to our own times. It deserves a wide readership and thoughtful discussion of its argument."--Missouri Historical Review

"Teacher Strike! is a major contribution to the growing literature on teacher unionism." --Labor: Studies in Working-Class History

"This book makes a significant contribution to the fields of educational history and labor history. . . . This provocative and well-written study will be a welcome addition to courses in educational history and labor history." --Journal of Social History


"Through the vividly drawn case studies described in this smart volume, Jon Shelton shows how the labor conflicts that rocked America's public schools in the tumultuous years between 1968 and 1981 altered the nation's politics and education policy, accelerating the decline of 1960s labor-liberalism and propelling the ascendancy of neoliberalism. His is a brilliantly recounted, timely, and sobering tale that illuminates the tangled roots of educational inequality, teacher disempowerment, and urban underfunding that continue to plague public education. It will interest all those who seek to revive both our schools and our democracy."--Joseph A. McCartin, author of Collision Course: Ronald Reagan, the Air Traffic Controllers, and the Strike that Changed America

"This is a fascinating study of the link between public perceptions of teachers' labor activism and the decline of political liberalism and public investment in education. Shelton makes a compelling case to place teachers' struggles for labor rights at the center of broader political changes of the last fifty years."--Kate Rousmaniere, author of Citizen Teacher: The Life and Leadership of Margaret Haley

"Shelton captures America at a pivotal moment, as long-held assumptions about the role of the state and unions in promoting growth and prosperity came under attack. An essential book for understanding an essential era in modern American history."--Jerald Podair, author of The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and The Ocean-Hill Brownsville Crisis


•  First Book Award, International Standing Conference for the History of Education, 2018
•  Herbert G. Gutman Award, Labor and Working-­Class History Association (LAWCHA), 2014