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I Won't Say 'Don't Join Teach For America' (Yet)

In too many instances, Teach For America does more for those who join it than for the students and communities it hopes to serve.


Earlier this year, an undergraduate emailed me a great question: If I knew then what I know now, would I still join Teach For America? And, last summer, after Chicago educator Katie Osgood asked new TFA corps members to quit, a corps member asked me the same question.

Indeed, Fordham Professor Mark Naison may have started a trend when he penned this piece about why TFA can't recruit in his classes. Now we've come to another TFA recruitment season, and several provocative stances regarding TFA have recently been made. In the Harvard Crimson, student Sandra Korn urged her classmates not to join—the Crimson’s editorial board responded with this defense of TFA—and Catherine Michna, a fellow TFA alumnus and academic, also recently wrote about why she will not write recommendation letters for students applying to the organization.

As someone who knows that nuance matters, I hesitate to tell students not to join TFA, though I agree with most of Michna's and Korn’s critiques of TFA and recognize that Naison and Osgood continuously raise valid concerns. Though I find it highly problematic, I also agree with the Harvard Crimson editorial board in this statement: "Teach For America is valuable because it provides at least a temporary solution to America's educational problems." However, those Harvard students couldn't be more factually right and morally wrong.

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