A Great Debate on Teach for America

    ...over in the comments section at The Chancellor's New Clothes (click here) where TFA's and critics duke it out.

    TFA focuses on the narrow educational issues ignoring the other issues such as health and poverty that come into play. Maybe there's a sense that touching on them becomes an excuse. Klein says that all the time. Certainly they never raise the class size issue and the kind of political battle it would take to have an impact. But TFA's supporters are anti-class size reduction as a union ploy to get more members.

    This ties into the social justice theme that some TFA's who stay in the system are beginning to take a look at. Fighting the bigger fight while doing your best to address educational needs (believe me, just a focus on this narrow aspect will never be enough) is the next logical step. If TFA truly believed in closing the achievement gap, they would also encourage their people to work to close all the other gaps. But when you are being used as part of a campaign to privatize the schools, while also undermining the concept of teacher unions (think: don't they undermine your individualism) the social justice aspect will never be part of a TFA program.

    TFA Rose makes some good points:
    I agree that the issues of inadequate nutrition and health care should be addressed, and that resources ought to be spent in finding those answers. However, as an individual and a professional I am not at all qualified to do any of those things. I am not a politician, a doctor, or a social worker. Instead I have chosen to take the path of a teacher to help show my students the opportunities they need to find their way out of poverty.

    That Rose considers herself not qualified in other areas but somehow qualified after 5 weeks, is puzzling.

    A Voice in the Wilderness responds:
    In the years since TFA started, with all of the teachers who have been sent in to schools, has it not occurred to anyone to say to Wendy Kopp-”Look at the conditions of the low income neighborhoods. Look at the conditions of the low income schools. Something needs to be done to improve these conditions?”

    If something were done, maybe the conditions that Kopp likes to cite over and over again as being an “injustice” would not be there.

    I find it hard to believe that such conversations have not occurred given the amount of intelligent people who are recruited by TFA.

    Another aspect of this debate are the traditionally trained teachers vs. the TFA's, who make the point that if they weren't there even for 2 years, classrooms may remain empty.

    TFA Sarah has the line down pretty well:
    If teaching is to be a respected profession, as so many educators implore it to be, then why shouldn’t teachers be held to similarly high standards as every other profession? In the real world outside of the gripping union contracts, if a person is not adequately performing their job function, she is removed from that position. Why should it be any different for teachers? Who made teaching the one profession where it’s virtually impossible to get fired? And who thought that was a good idea for the students? At least in corporate America, someone sucking at their job isn’t usually affecting dozens of children’s lives.

    Anti-progressive teachers: if you want your work to be respected and valued, be willing to hold yourself to high professional standards - and that means showing quantitatively AND qualitatively that your students are learning! If you can’t or won’t do that, then find another job. Our kids don’t need warm bodies collecting a paycheck at the front of their classroom.

    Deborah responds:
    This is exactly the kind of clueless rhetoric I expected to hear. How miserably disappointing. If you think for one splint second that lousy employees and cronyism doesn’t occur in the private sector, that you truly have lots to learn.

    Head over and chime in with a few comments of your own.

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A Great Debate on Teach for America

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