The Atlantic

The Power of the Troublemaker

In her new book, the author Carla Shalaby explores the repression and freedom at play in America’s classrooms.
Source: Paul Sancya / AP

As a veteran educator, I have encountered my share of “troublemaker” students—those who talk when they should be quiet, stand up when they should sit down, and generally find endless ways to turn the order of the classroom upside down. For Carla Shalaby, a former elementary-school teacher who has studied at the Rutgers and Harvard graduate schools of education and directed elementary-education programs at Brown University and Wellesley College, the social order of a classroom and the practices within it are a matter of freedom, democracy, and justice.

In her book, Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School, Shalaby argues that troublemakers are like canaries in a coal mine, calling out for the rest of society the inherent

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