April 09, 2012 by
In Seattle fights Teach for America, I recently wrote about the stand-off between Seattle parents and their school board over the contracting of Teach for America (TFA). On March 22, 2012, parents lost the battle — for now — as the board voted 4 to 3 to continue the contract with TFA. You can follow the struggle by reading the Parents Across America blog.
Education Radio has produced a scathing critique that may help parents everywhere keep Teach for America out of their schools in the future. For the most part, the information is not new, but it is nicely packaged to make a compelling case against the organization that for years has belittled the teaching profession while making unsubstantiated claims about the organization. It says out loud and with authority the very things so many educators have been screaming about, unheard, for years. Hopefully, the extraordinarily wealthy and our elected officials will listen, literally.
You may listen to the show here on Education Radio.
In this week’s show (Part One of a two part series), Education Radio continues to disrupt the dominant narrative of corporate education reform by investigating the organization Teach for America (TFA). TFA is one of many insidious examples of how the language of social justice and equity is hijacked and appropriated, and instead employed to further the goals of the neoliberal education reform agenda. This agenda includes a firm belief that education should primarily serve the interests of private profit and as with all neoliberal education reformers, TFA is actively intensifying racial and class inequality, and the destruction of education as an essential public good along with the continued decimation of unions – two institutions that are primary determinants of a democratic society.
In addition, some of the myths that have long been perpetuated by and about TFA are debunked. Education Radio interviews education experts and former TFA recruits for critical input.
We speak to a variety of people who have researched and experienced Teach for America, including Barbara Veltri, Assistant Professor of Education at Northern Arizona State university, TFA corps member mentor, and author of Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher. We hear from University of Illinois Chicago Professor of Asian American Studies and Education Kevin Kumashiro on TFA’s impact on teacher education, and Associate Professor of Education at the University of Alabama Philip Kovacs, who has investigated TFA’s research, and from education historian Diane Ravitch. We also hear what TFA founder Wendy Kopp has to say about their mission and philosophy. We close the show by hearing from CUNY professor and leading proponent of critical pedagogy Ira Shor, who talks about the importance of creating spaces for authentic teaching and learning.
I would take issue with one recurring statement in the program. TFA is referred to repeatedly as a part of the neoliberal education reform agenda. In fact, the so-called education reform that showcases Teach for America is supported by both liberals and conservatives. Appropriating our public schools and handing them over to the wealthiest 1% is the only thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on. TFA grew substantially under No Child Left Behind under Gerorge W. Bush and continues to flourish as Race to the Top does its damage under President Obama. So, I hope the folks at Education Radio will correct that misconception. We have found one thing that liberals and conservatives agree on. Let’s broadcast it widely.
But homegrown Democrats can be taken by surprise when education reform legislation is promoted by one of their own. During the Q & A following his state-of-the-state address in January 2012, Oregon’s Governor, John Kitzhaber, said he would welcome Teach for America to this state. I’m hoping that the mounting evidence against Teach for America in programming like this show on Education Radio will change his thinking. All children, Oregon’s included, deserve professional teachers. I’m hoping Oregonians can avert the fight that Seattle is waging. Children can’t protect themselves, they count on us for that.