Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Sham of Teach for America: Part One

Neha Singhal
You can download mp3's of the program here:
Audioport (mp3)
Internet Archive

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.

Wendy Kopp
In this first part of our two-part series on TFA, we challenge the claims that TFA makes to support its mission by taking a closer look at TFA recruitment, training, its impact on teacher education, its approach to diversity, and the impossibility of the TFA model to create spaces for authentic teaching and learning.

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.

Throughout the show we also listen to the stories of two people who have had first-hand experience as TFA recruits and corps-members. Jameson Brewer is a traditionally certified teacher and now corps member in Atlanta who is currently finishing his second year. And, Neha Singhal, a former TFA recruit who left TFA after the training when she began to uncover its true agenda. Neha is also a guest host and producer of our program this week.

Ira Shor
In next week's continuation of our programming on TFA, we'll explore TFA’s connection to corporate education reform, its impact on professional teachers and their unions, and TFA's hijacking of a social justice discourse to promote policies that are, in actuality, upholding and furthering inequality rather than challenging it.

For additional information that expands this critique of TFA, see the following links:
A dialogue between two TFA corps members (one of which is Jameson Brewer, featured on this program)
Philip Kovacs on TFA research
Teach for America, The Hidden Curriculum of Liberal Do-Gooders by Andrew Hartman
Looking Past the Spin: Teach for America by Barbara Miner
Why I Did TFA and Why You Shouldn't by Gary Rubenstein
Why TFA is Not Welcome in My Classroom by Mark Naisson

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