Orwell’s Teach for America
Some of you have been following the dust up this summer between the Orwellian “Teach for America,” pushing its educationally unarmed recruits on our city schools, and the Minnesota Department of Education. Under a law passed when Governor Gutshot was in charge — with the able assistance of some DFLers like Sen. Terri Bonoff — Teach for America had grown accustomed to a “blanket waiver” to teach for its enlistees who went through TFA’s five week boot camp.
This year — perhaps based on experience with the program in the four years that blanket waivers were granted for TFA “graduates” — the Department of Education decided this year that it should look at these candidates individually, as it does for every other teacher coming through the door.
Well, this was unacceptable to the Orwellian Teach for America and the sycophant editorial board at the Strib, who was tut tutting all summer about interference by union thugs. I mean, really, who does the Department of Education think it is?
So, after protracted carping and whining by the usual suspects, including the usual editorial writers at the Strib, the Department of Education relented. And that’s great, because now the kiddos can be exposed to more of this:
Brianna [a student in New Orleans who had lots of TFA teachers] was vexed by her young new teachers, who were adversarial and fixated on data. “Everything was taken away,” Brianna said. “And then the teachers don’t even care about you.”
Complicating matters, many of the new teachers in the majority-black district were white and unfamiliar with the community. Indeed, the replacement of veteran teachers has decreased by one-third the percentage of black teachers in the district. In the novice classrooms, Brianna saw “a power dynamic type of thing,” in which bald racial hierarchies arose where classroom management failed. The teachers focused less on building relationships, more on “numbers, numbers, numbers.”
The focus on numbers, numbers, numbers will obviously help students develop the analytic skills they will need to land that scholarship spot at Harvard.
Or perhaps more likely, some mind-numbingly repetitive job that TFA’s corporate overlords have in mind for the kiddos anyway.
Falling back on the ol’ drill and test routine is understandable, actually, because the TFAers aren’t able to do much else.
The three biggest lies about TFA are: 1) the training is adequate, 2) the magical power of high expectations, and 3) the existence of miracle TFA teachers/schools/districts.
On the training, peer-reviewed studies show:
We found what might be expected of those who choose to do complex work, namely, that those who trained longer and harder to do that work do it better.
Which is, of course, intuitively obvious to the casual observer, but not apparently, to TFA.
On the magical power of high expectations, this is where the white savior complex comes into play; the minority kiddos are just unmotivated, and all they need is a white young person to come on in and show them how it’s done. You can see from Brianna’s quote above how well that works.
And regarding the third lie: drill and test is hardly “transformational,” unless you count turning a student into a dropout “transformational.”
I have written many times about the game that is really afoot here, hiving off a chunk of the public school establishment for private gain, and using public school teachers and schools as a scapegoat for a general societal failure to support education and to keep urban schools segregated from suburban ones, most recently in Teach for America extends the franchise!
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