"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Some Reflections on Teach for America

A veteran teacher wrote this to me yesterday: 
I have just read your KIPP article link.

I am tired of the "well-intentioned" TFA moniker. I had dealings with several in my previous school. One left for law school. A second was applying for an MBA program. A third was accepted to an MA in Literacy at Teacher's College. A fourth refused to share with me her plans. I would characterize them as crass materialists using poor children to advance their personal agendas. The only one I have any respect for completed traditional college educational certification. She joined TFA because she could not find a job. She is still teaching in ___________. I believe she is completing her fourth year.

Am I too harsh? Many TFAs view career teachers as addle-brained.  
My response to this teacher:
Teach for America attracts privileged two-year missionaries whose resume-padding service would never happen, were it not for an abiding sense that the children of the poor will somehow be made better from brief exposures to their own swollen-headed masochism, which masquerades as civic commitment.  TFA’s corporate positive psychology catechism attracts these people like flies to a feed lot, where Corp members fortify themselves on a steady diet of mock sacrifice that is supplemented by a patronizing hostility to public institutions in general and public school teachers in particular. 

TFA’s corporate commitment is based on privileged ignorance, intellectual dishonesty, and a capacity for quicksilver rationalizing, which is necessary to maintain fanciful expectations when confronted with sobering reality for the unbrainwashed.  Nothing can allow a chink in the armored persona that recruits are trained to maintain, and if most of them were told by their TFA handlers to shave their heads and beg for money at the airport, they would have no trouble understanding the wisdom of this strategy for ending the achievement gap.  Whatever it takes, wherever it leads, for as long as their two years last.

After that, TFA corp members have earned their further elevated status as alumni, survivors in a sisterhood of corporate education promoters tied together by social media, unending emails, home-delivered propaganda, and media messaging that feeds the grand illusion that children who need the most professional teachers are somehow made whole by an endless stream of unprepared beginners.  Those who use their service points to get into the best law schools will intern for Congressmen who need their rich advice on education matters, and eventually they will become high ranking education officials who can wield their power to advance the TFA fantasy of corporate efficiency's  applied to the education of the poor.  Nothing could be more fitting to realizing the 21st Century neoliberal nightmare for education.

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