The topic was technology, so I'm still struggling to figure out why Daniel Sellers was there, beyond talking about videotaping teachers so they could "become more proficient."
But something Mr. Sellers said at the end, struck me. He agreed with my assessment that "schools are designed to fail students," noting that just two weeks ago in Washington he had heard someone say that, "you could not design a worse system." But then he insisted that was not where our efforts should go. "The kids we work with can't wait," he said.
So, instead of fighting to redesign the system, Mr. Sellers offers, hmmm, untrained teachers?
TFA collected $149 million last year. They expect to collect $189 million this year. They are an organization with constant access to the US Secretary of Education, the President of the United States, and powerful governors and mayors, and... they choose to do nothing.
Let's just point out that over the span 2007-2011 alone, the money spent on TFA - not on teacher salaries (which are paid by school districts) but on TFA operations alone, could have bought a million kids their choice of a laptop, an iPad, or a really smart phone.
But that's not the critical point, with all this access to power, Wendy Kopp, like Michelle Rhee, Sellers, et al, have deliberately chosen to not challenge the system at all.
|Our schools are designed to filter students out and preserve the status quo wealth structure.|
Millworkers, 1910, Knoxville, Tennessee
Why? Why, if they know that schools are a bad design, if they have all this collective power, have they chosen to take a billion and a half (or so) dollars over the past two decades and change nothing?
So I went back to this audio file, Michelle Rhee laughing about causing her 8-year-old students to bleed because she was so completely unready - as a first year TFA corpsmember - to be left alone with children.
Why was she laughing? Because, again, neither she nor Wendy Kopp, nor Daniel Sellers, nor anyone on the Teach for America board of directors, can imagine themselves, or their children or grandchildren, in that classroom with that TFA teacher.
Their children and grandchildren sit safely away, as they did as children, from these kinds of troubles. Which is why they choose missionary work rather than the political work of creating change.
That plus self-interest.
Because when the wealth elite of the US can convince the public that all our problems can be solved if only we stopped training teachers, and paid them less, and privatized schools, they have succeeded in preserving their position at the top of the steep American income-distribution pyramid for the rest of this century.
Wendy Kopp has done a great job for her 'home team" - those families who can afford to pay full tuition for their daughter at Princeton. She has diverted massive energy, and considerable money, away from things which might actually give a much higher proportion of students a chance at success. Wendy, Michelle, Daniel, they have all done their best to ensure that the status quo in American education - and thus wealth distribution - never changes.
|Look carefully folks, this is the top-third of the pyramid|
"Back then the prevailing notion—backed up by all of the research at the time—was that students' socioeconomic backgrounds determined their educational outcomes.," says Kopp in a depressingly unchallenging Mother Jones interview. And that is more true today then it was "back then" when Kopp began Teach for America. In fact, social mobility has slowed to a trickle, the funding gap between rich and poor classrooms has increased, and those Ivy League schools have become less and less economically diverse.
And through it all, Kopp and friends have offered us exactly what? By grabbing not just the media attention, but a huge amount of public cash as well, what they have offered us is protection for the status quo.
Some of us choose to try to create change. Some of us choose not to.
- Ira Socol