Teach for America doesn't meet expectations

561

Teach for America is kind of like communism: It's terrific in theory but problematic in practice.

The government-funded program employs elite college graduates to work in low-income community schools that are experiencing teacher shortages. Fresh graduates have a character-building opportunity and students all over the country are offered an education.

Unfortunately, the idealism of the program crumbles under the iron fist of reality.

Graduates from all academic majors are invited to apply to TFA. The grand idea is that these young adults will develop an understanding of America's social injustices and apply their newly acquired knowledge to their intended career path.

When the teacher's 2-year contract expires, he or she will be free to pursue a career with new street smarts. Ultimately, these street smarts should contribute to making America — in terms of law, economics, medicine, etc. — a nation of justice and equality If only the vision weren't so idealistic.

When the program asks for applicants of all majors, education majors do not win out every time. Some of these future educators are learning about teaching for the first time in their lives.

In order to prepare the new employees, TFA provides a 5-week summer "crash course" on teaching.

I would argue that it takes much longer than five weeks to become well versed in the practice of education.

Kids can spot the inexperience on a first year teacher's sleeve and can jump on this opportunity to misbehave. Teachers are what control a school, and their level of knowledge, preparation and commitment can make or break an education initiative.

Not only are some teachers lack training, but some also lack the natural passion and drive required for a successful education. TFA is notoriously known as a "the back-up plan" or "resume builder" for college graduates.

It is a highly selective program (the acceptance rate has been compared to those of Ivy League grad schools) that claims to take the most elite leaders, but who says that leadership yields good teaching? Certainly it's a piece of the puzzle, but effective teachers possess much more.

Middle-class and affluent schools demand teachers who are sufficiently trained and display a sincere level of interest in teaching — why should children living in poverty receive any less? This program aims to fix educational injustices when, in reality, it is only perpetuating them.

I've heard horror stories from former TFA employees. While I sympathize for the teachers who've had shoes thrown at their heads and death threats shot at them by nine year olds, I send my condolences to the students in these inner-city schools.

The children are part of an experiment, and when you treat students like guinea pigs, they're going to act like animals.

I believe that good TFA teachers exist. Unfortunately, 85 percent of the employees drop out of the program by their fourth year. Consequently, they abandon the children, the idea and the future.

Applicants should reconsider whether or not they possess the qualities necessary for carrying out a successful program.

Teach for America positions should not be occupied by graduates merely looking for a cultural experience, but rather by those who are influential, dedicated and fervent.

— Strader is a sophomore from Danville, Ill., majoring in art history.

opinion@thedepauw.com