Tony Danza thinks teachers deserve a big apology.
Danza, a Malverne High School graduate and film, television and stage actor best known for his hit TV show Who's The Boss?, took on the real-life role of teacher in an actual public high school in Philadelphia recently, and learned a great deal about the challenges educators face today.
"The job [teachers] are doing is the maybe the most important job there is today," says Danza, calling education a "national security problem in this country right now."
In his latest book, titled "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had," due out Sept. 11, Danza reflects on the year he spent teaching tenth grade English at Northeast High School from 2009 to 2010, an experience that was also chronicled by A&E in a television series titled "Teach."
Within the first paragraphs of the book, Danza, quoting a fellow teacher, makes a bold statement about what may be wrong with education today, writing, "No one ever seems to question why the burden is on the teacher to do the engaging, when we ask so little of the students, or for that matter, their parents."
Danza elaborates on this point in a message directed to teachers that was posted on Youtube Friday (see above), where he calls teaching "the toughest job around nowadays" and says it's up to teachers to "sustain a great country."
"You're up against a lot. Not only are you charged to engage the students, it's your job. The kids hear it to so they walk in and say, 'I'm here. Engage me.' Well, they have to take part in their own education, which is something that I think is the only way we are ever going to change this," he says. "You can complain about teachers ... budget cuts, class size, whatever, [but] until we can convince the kids that this small sliver of their lives is so important than the rest of it and make them want it."
He also opens up about his original aspirations to become a teacher (He earned a degree in history.), how he could have been a better student in school, and the thought-process that led him to undertake this endeavor after his talk show was cancelled and he was approaching his sixtieth birthday.
Danza dedicated the book to his parents, Matty and Anne Iadanza, who moved from Brooklyn to Malverne when Danza was 14. He also mentions (on page 130) his own English teacher and musical theatre director Charles "Chick"Messinger from Malverne High School, which he graduated from in 1968.
In an op-ed published in USA Weekend, Danza wrote:
"There’s one important thing I learned in the trenches at Northeast High in Philadelphia: Teachers have no problem being held accountable by parents. In fact, they crave parent involvement.
If parents do nothing else, they should persuade their sons and daughters to take part in their own education. Kids should hear the message loud and clear: 'You have one life, and this small part of it will make all the difference.'