Is TFA analogous to a Holiday Inn Express? I don’t think so personally, but we have to be cognizant of those who do believe that.
One of the reasons I like blogging on Teach For Us is that in a small way, I get to participate in the larger conversation about education reform. At the same time, I’ve found myself in the midst of growing tensions between factions in the “movement.” We’ve made progress in the sense that there is consensus for the need to improve American achievement, but at the same time, the public has become increasingly fractured about how we can get there.
Through engaging in this dialogue, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with “gadflies” such as Diane Ravitch and Gary Rubinstein. I enjoy hearing their perspectives but then I see posts like Ravitch Blocked Me on Twitter! Hmm… c’mon guys. Like Wess, I would have blocked you too. Don’t perpetuate the stereotype of TFA corps members being over-privileged, entitled know-it-alls. Some of the commenters get that, which is awesome. You truly have to understand that a 70-year-old with half-a-century of educational scholarship is going to come down hard on an organization gaining as much clout and cash as TFA. She’s not alone. She likely views CM’s like a Holiday Inn Express customer. “I didn’t go to Ed School, but I know more than those regular teachers.”
Diane Ravitch is a celebrated historian whose level of scholarship is likely underrated by those who only interact with her through Twitter. That said, her seemingly unprecedented level of interaction with her followers likely stems from a deep dissatisfaction with balance in the education reform debate. I first learned about Ravitch’s story in college, when I learned about her dramatic turnaround regarding NCLB. I admired her for principled stand based on experience and research, but I also knew that she was positioning herself on the other side of the movement I was about to join…
Fast forward 12 months and I found myself being retweeted when I echoed her sentiment that kids were being asked to “pick the right answer when they should be asking, ‘is this the right question?’” The only issue was that Ravitch said this in a debate with Wendy Kopp. I often joke about losing my job and being a “TFApologist,” but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with constructive commentary. At the same time, I wonder if Ravitch realizes that I share the same Ivy League, TFA background that she so often rails against. Honestly, though, she’s not thinking about me like that. I’m a newcomer to all this and need to focus on teaching. Yes, I think she can develop a more nuanced view of Teach for America, but there are likely a greater number of people who need to develop a better understanding of he views.
TFA has it’s flaws as does every organization. The issue is that it’s not very upfront about them. Honestly, it doesn’t really have an imperative to be upfront. I think TFA has a lot going for it, obviously, and can take simple steps to improve its image amongst the Ravtich/Teacher’s Union crowd. It is all about priorities and choices. Going forward, I hope we can at least prioritize keeping the dialogue open and find some way to work together to advance the achievement of children across America.