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Smart List: 60 People Shaping the Future of K-12 Education
One Reply to “Congrats Wendy Kopp!”
If you agree with the following, please help me by distributing it where potential Teach for America recruits or current TFA teachers will see it.
I am veteran teacher from Houston seeking a dialogue with current and past Teach for America teachers regarding a pattern of TFA leaders and alumni in leadership positions promoting conservative ideas and profiting from close relationships with reactionary corporations while presumptuously claiming to be the new civil rights movement. I first became aware of this when a former local TFA Director, now a school board member, recently proposed to fire teachers based on test scores and opposed allowing us to vote to have a single union.
The conservative-TFA nexus began when Union Carbide sponsored Wendy Kopp’s initial efforts to create Teach for America. Union Carbide’s negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything possible to minimize taking responsibility.
Ms. Kopp wrote in her book she nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved in financial hard times by their managerial assistance. The Edison Project, founded by a Tennessee entrepreneur, was an effort to replace public schools run by elected school boards with for-profit, corporate-run schools. Her husband, Richard Barth, was an Edison executive before taking over at KIPP Foundation.
In 2000, two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, then joined the Bush’s at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was pivotal for Bush, since as Governor he did not have any genuine education achievements. These charter schools do great service, but they start with families that are committed to education. They claim they are improving public schools by offering competition in the market-place, but they take the best and leave the rest. What sort of competition is that?
Superintendent Michelle Rhee’s prescription for improving D.C. schools: close them rather than improve them—and fire teachers rather than inspire them.
TFA teachers do great work. But better schools are only part of the solution. Stable families are more able to be ambitious for their children than insecure, overworked and struggling ones. We need national health care, a stronger union movement, long-term unemployment benefits, generous college funding, immigration reform, trade policy, freedom for alternative lifestyles and reductions in military spending. Specifically, we need to enlarge the middle class by any means necessary.
Our society has failed our schools by permitting the middle class to shrink. It’s not the other way around. Economic inequality and insecurity fosters the achievement gap. Its not the other way around. Blaming teachers, public schools and our unions feeds corporate ideology and their power. Corporate domination of politics, and the weakness of counter-balancing forces like unions, are the obstacles to progressive change.
Ms. Kopp claims to be in the tradition of the civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King would take principled positions—against the Vietnam War and for the Poor Peoples March—even when it pissed off powerful people. His final speech was for striking sanitation workers. His last book argued for modifying American capitalism to include some measure of wealth distribution. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here. My e-mail is JesseAlred@yahoo.com. You as an individual TFA teacher has a responsibility here because your work gives TFA leaders credibility. Its not the other way around.