Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two Bold TFA Critiques

For readers of the blog who work in or are generally interested in education, you've undoubtedly heard of Teach for America (TFA). In fact, TFA is the organization that prepared me for the teaching profession (as in, I transitioned from finance into teaching via TFA).

My experience with TFA was generally positive. I also generally believe in TFA's mission: I believe  young, talented individuals should give back (in terms of time and knowledge) to communities in need. I probably also had a good experience with TFA because I joined the organization to become a long-term educator, rather than simply use TFA as a step-ladder into business school, law school, etc. Most of my peers who went through the training process with me were not thinking about staying longer than the two-year TFA commitment.

Two friends of mine (thanks Janelle and Jaimie!) recently sent me two different, yet very interesting and honest critiques of TFA:

The first article, "Teach for America: The Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do-Gooders" is written by Andrew Hartman, a history professor at Illinois State University. He also is the author of Education and the Cold War: The Battle for the American School. If you're going to read only one of the two critiques, I would highly suggest you read this one - it is bold, comprehensive, and makes a lot of great points.

The second article, "Why Teach for America is Not Welcome in My Classroom" is written by Mark Naison, a Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program.

If anyone would like to post their thoughts, feel free to in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting how TFA only recruits the "creme de la creme" from the most distinguished universities - most of which communities in need do not have access to.

I wonder how the international "Teach for" organizations will handle this problem (i.e Teach for India, Teach for Pakistan, etc.).

Anonymous said...

As a former TFA member, I definitely have my critiques, as strongly as both of the authors of these articles. BUT, the article title "Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do Gooders" reduces severely the credibility and reach of the author. A large proportion of corps members I knew were not liberal, but in fact quite conservative or "right-wingers." And if educational equality is a "liberal thing," then make sure you are on the right side of history. Also, one of the major critiques of TFA is not in fact that it is liberal, but in fact, that its agenda is pleasing to right wing conservative capitalists due to a focus on teachers rather than a socio-economic system that produces poverty and inequity and the move towards educational privativization. Notice that in the educational world most of the biggest critics are not conservative but liberal, like the teachers unions and so on.