Why It’s a Bad Time to Be in Teach For America Why It’s a Bad Time to Be in Teach For America

Why It’s a Bad Time to Be in Teach For America

by Gary Rubinstein

July 28, 2013

Recently there has been a lot of good discussion about the pros and cons of Teach For America. It started this summer with Katie Osgood's post, An Open Letter to New Teach for America Recruits, which has gone viral and already has 500 comments. In it, Osgood recommends that TFA's class of 2013 should resign, and if they want to really be teachers, enroll in a real teacher education program.

Alex Morgan, a blogger at TeachForUs.org, a corps member and alumni blogging platform, wrote a competent—but generally weak—rebuttal to Osgood's piece called My Open Letter to 2013 Corps Members. Morgan says corps members should remember "that you came to TFA for a reason." Then a couple weekends ago at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago there was a session—"Organizing Resistance Against Teach for America and its Role in Privatization"—run by TFA alumni who are opposed to the direction TFA has chosen to pursue.

I was not an organizer of this event—though I was invited to participate, I couldn't make it. I'm glad that it happened without me since it shows that although I'm a self-described "somewhat frustrated 1991 alum," of the organization, I'm not some lone vigilante speaking up. Justin Fong, Teach For America's vice president of internal communications, wrote a bizarre post about this session called Open Letter to Anti-TFA Folks at Free Minds Free People Conference.

Fong's main point is "Teach For America isn't going away anytime soon so work with us to make the organization better." At TeachForUs.org, alumnus didymath wrote a nice response called Some Anti-TFA Blowhard Lights a Torch. Didymath notes that Fong's statement,

"raises the question: why isn't TFA, an organization that has quickly outgrown its utility, going away anytime soon? If you follow TFA at all (and follow the money that pours into the organization), the answer should be obvious. The program is well-supported in spirit and in treasure by powerful figures in government and in the private sector, many of whom TFA helped groom. I believe that the policy elite and philanthropic big-wigs love TFA for a variety of reasons: TFA undermines teacher’s unions; TFA teachers are less likely to stay in their placement region and thus less likely to eventually draw on state pensions; they lack respect for what teachers do and must be prepared for and believe that five weeks of climate-controlled Institute training is sufficient preparation."

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A version of this post originally appeared at Gary Rubinstein.

Image via (cc) Flickr user Max Klingensmith

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Why It’s a Bad Time to Be in Teach For America