Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Blogger asks: How can Teach for America stop making enemies?

Blogger John Thompson has an answer for Teach for America CEO Elisa Villanueva-Beard’s complaint that many progressives and union activists aren’t happy with TFA.

"It's disheartening,” she says, “that people who should be our partners in a larger movement for social justice are fighting the wrong enemy."

Thompson says she has it backwards. TFA declared war on public education when it threw in its lot with “the test-driven school ‘reform’ movement that started this educational civil war by scapegoating teachers who have different beliefs regarding the best ways to improve schools.”

“The problem,” Thompson writes, “is the propaganda spread by too many former TFAers who quickly rose to political prominence. After spending a couple of years or so in the classroom, too many of them feel entitled to impose their cheap and easy silver bullets of ‘High Expectations!’ and ‘No Excuses!’ as if they could reverse the legacies of extreme poverty.”

From Superintendent John White at the top, and generously sprinkled through the ranks at the State Department of Education, are exactly the types of whom Thompson writes.

Why do so many now see Terach for America as the enemy? We can start, Thompson writes, with “the way that Teach For America, along with a host of other education reformers, from Bill Gates to the Walton family, have systematically denied the role of poverty, and insisted that its increase be studiously ignored in favor of an emphasis on high stakes tests. We could address the contemporary school reform movement which threatens to make career teachers an endangered species. This neither fights poverty, nor helps poor children -- in fact it does the opposite.

“When Gates and the ‘Billionaires Boys Club ignore education research and impose their opinions on schools throughout this diverse nation, that is a huge problem. The hubris (and, perhaps, profit motives) that prompts their dictates is an enemy. And, don't get me started on the anti-teacher public relations campaigns that the big boys fund.”

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