Monday, August 25, 2014

Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" Blows the Lid on Ed Deform

We are awash in a sea of books on education produced mostly by non-teachers, pseudo-journalists, often with more than a tinge of bias. It seems that everyone covering the education wars spurred by ed deform must write a book. We hear about building better teachers, teacher wars, and how we learn, just to name a few. But books by real teachers who might actually know something always seem to take second place in the mainstream media.

When teachers do write books they are often about their experiences with children or about the tricks they have learned. Many of them are from teachers who had a cup of coffee in the classroom before going off to write a book. John Owens' "Confessions of a Bad Teacher" was an enjoyable read, exposing the kind of monster principals we hear about so often. But John only taught less than a year, and coming from the publishing world, to which he returned soon after being forced to resign, he didn't have the full picture.

Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" is much along the
same lines as John's book, but with the perspective of a decade long teacher working in the particular hell created under the Bloomberg/Klein era.

Laurel also entered teaching as a 2nd career, from the fashion industry, just as Bloomberg took control of the NYC school system. Her book is a year by year chronicle of her life in the classroom in a hell-hole of a school in a high poverty area of the Bronx where each succeeding principal (there were four over her ten years in the system) was worse than the one before. Laurel makes us party to the hilarious and often tragic parade of idiot principals, from the aptly-named Cruella to the ego-maniac Guido to Principal Dearest to Rosemary's Baby.

What makes Laurel's book special is that she does not just tell a story about one school's dysfunction. She ties the insanity of the national, state and citywide policies and how they impacted on the day to day functioning of her classroom and her school. Just about every one of her supervisors from the principals on down took whatever policies were being handed down and managed to implement them in the worst possible way imaginable.

After a decade of trudging into her school through a neighborhood rife with poverty, she finally left teaching around the time the Bloomberg era was in its final death throes.

Finally freed from living in a horror movie, she was able to write her book free from the anxiety of retaliation. Well freed is a relative word. One day there was a knock on her door and standing there were 2 guys from one of the city or DOE investigative arms. They were there to harass her over the book with some bogus story that she was violating something or other in writing about her experiences and her school. Since she didn't name names or the school and the fact that she was no longer employed by the DOE, she was able to respond by slamming the door in their faces.

Laurel did a great radio interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC: Ten Years in a Bronx Public School - WNYC (

Laurel is also a MORE and BAT supporter.
More links to reviews, etc. below the jump.


    DAVONTE'S INFERNO. From my first week of teaching in a high-needs school, I felt consumed by the urge to write about my experience: the multiple ...
  2. Ten Years in a Bronx Public School - WNYC
    Oct 16, 2013 - Laurel Sturt talks about her life in a high-poverty elementary school in the Bronx.Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School ...
  3. Davonte's Inferno - Goodreads

    Nov 21, 2013 - Davonte's Inferno has 15 ratings and 6 reviews. Kara said: Not sure if I'll be able to power through and finish this book (I'm on page 102)...if I do, ...
  4. Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York ... - Facebook
    Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag. 515 likes · 6 talking about this. Calling on policy, research, humor and a generous...
  5. Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School ...
    Barnes & Noble
    Rating: 3 - ‎2 votes
    Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag. Shop NOOK Press eBooks. This NOOK Book is Lendable LendMe™. Learn More.
  6. Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School ...
    Barnes & Noble
    Rating: 3 - ‎2 votes
    Available in: NOOK Book (eBook), Paperback. Ever-irreverent Laurel M. Sturt pulls no punches detailing her bizarre life in the trenches of a high-poverty ...
  7. Teaching in Davonte's Inferno: A Must Read Summer Book ...
    Jul 2, 2014 - Refreshingly, she's real with us in her no-holds-barred memoir Davonte's Inferno: Ten Years In The New York Public School Gulag, ...
  8. Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno" - Ed Notes Online - Blogger
    May 14, 2014 - I started reading Laurel Sturt's "Davonte's Inferno," her story of 10 years in hell in the NYC school system under the Bloomberg years, on a ...

1 comment:

  1. I emailed John Owens a while back and asked him if the DOE tried to hassle him after he wrote his book. He told me "no". I had a feeling that the goon squad at the DOE would try and mess with him. I guess they just went after Laurel instead.


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