I had hoped to have more time to update my blog while I am here in Philly but as I expected they’re keeping us pretty busy. The way I actually first found this site was when I was researching TFA. I was looking for opinions from strong supporters of the organization, strong opponents, and everything in between to help myself make my own decision about where I stand in the debate surrounding education reform – something which is quickly being termed the “civil rights issue of the 21st Century.”
I believe that some of the critiques made by opponents of TFA have merit, but from my own experience I’ve been able to see that many of them are oversimplified or contain mischaracterizations. It would take too long to touch on all of my opinions, both for and against, but I would like to take a moment to talk about the critique that had worried me the most prior to institute.
When I came to institute about two weeks ago, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew that it was going to be rigorous and probably lead to long nights, but I had also read about some of the “horror” stories from disillusioned or disenchanted alumni. By and large, institute has, so far, certainly been an excellent learning experience.
The critique of TFA that I was most concerned about prior to coming to institute was that TFA effectively stifled and suppressed ideas that may conflict with their official stance. I cannot speak for the experience at other regions or institutes but my experiences in Detroit and in Philly have been the opposite. Happily, the discourse on education reform has been very vibrant among CMs and TFA institute staff. From what I’ve noticed during these conversations, debates, and even arguments (not that there’s anything wrong with a healthy argument every once in a while) is that even if many of us are separated by our opinions about the best solutions to education inequity, we are all brought together by our devotion, passion, and dedication to fighting the injustices that we see.
Last Spring, before I was a TFA CM, I helped to coordinate a rally against education inequity at Michigan State University. When I first met with our TFA campus recruiter, I told him that my organization could not partner with him if the event was political or a TFA recruiting tool. I received assurances that it would not be and he was true to his word. In fact, he wen to great lengths to balance the speakers’ list to include people with a variety of backgrounds in education: college professor, public high school teacher, charter school principal, a TFA CM, and even a college student. Rather than focusing on the onions that divide us, the entire philosophy behind the event was to build relationships around a problem that effects all of us in one way or another. This philosophy led to the success of the event, nearly 400 turned out on a cold January morning to hear the speakers and visit the booths of the 25 organizations that partnered with TFA to bring the event to life.
I may be a relative “newbie” to TFA and education inequity but one thing that I know is that organizations, just like everything else in the world, are not static. They change with time and with people and nor are they monolithic in opinion. No one’s perfect, person or organization, but I think that TFA may be more flexible and open to new ideas that some give it credit for. But, then again, I am just a newbie.