Sunday, August 21, 2011

Teach for America, Steve Jobs and the Culture of Poverty

One of the reasons that Teach for America is so attractive to
corporate funders like Steven Jobs of Apple- whatever portion of the
political spectrum them may come from- is that TFA offers an enhanced
version of the Culture of Poverty thesis that was in vogue in the early
and middle Sixties.

In the world according to TFA, poor school performance is a product
of communities who lack a strong foundation of middle class values.
burned out teachers who have given up trying to instill those values,
and teachers unions which protect burned out teachers

What is needed, to transform failing schools and communities, is a
constant infusion of highly motivated teachers who will be ambassaors
for middle class values and will leave before they are burned out or
begin to adapt to the culture of the communities in which they are located!

The "two years and out" commitment is actually consistent with TFA's
world view and "theory of change. Because TFA teachers are moving in and out
of low perofrming schools at a rapid rate, children of the poor will constantly be
exposed toemissaries of mainstream American values who refuse to accept the
"culture of failure" that exists in poor communities.

The result- great improvement in school performance at little cost

The message to funders- Give money to Teach for America and you
will gradually change the culture of poor neighborhoods through its most impressionable and malleable representatives,its youth, and over time, poverty will diminish, or be drastically reduced

What makes this kind of thinking, from the corporate point of view,
so attractive is that it rejects any structural explanations of
poverty that might require a reditribution of wealth or higher tax
rates on corporations.

It suggests the problems of poverty and inequality can be solved
through private philanthropy and individual sacrifice by bright
middle class college graduates .devoting a few years to uplifting poor
children early in their

No evidence that such an approach will work is required. It
donors feel so good that evidence doesn't matter.

Mark Naison
August 20, 2011

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