Parents, do you want your child's special ed teacher to have some training, or are you all right with a random person hired from a Craiglist ad?
Teaching fellow. It sounds so official and educated, doesn't it? That is, until you have a look at the ad on Craigslist recruiting future "fellows" for special ed teaching positions in Chicago:
Chicago Public Schools currently administers Special Education services to over 49,000 students, accounting for almost 13% of the student population. The district has identified a growing need for new teachers in Special Education to serve these students. Chicago Teaching Fellows aims to meet that need by recruiting highly qualified individuals, like you, to train to be Special Education teachers!
We strongly encourage candidates to apply this week, as we review applications on a rolling basis. No teaching or education experience is required. Our program provides extensive on-the-job training and individualized coaching to all participants.
Qualifications and eligibility vary by program, but generally include:
Bachelor's degree completed by Spring 2013
Legal authorization to work in the U.S.
Passing an FBI background investigation
No previous teaching certifications
This is a project done by Teach for America, the non-profit formed to make sure inexperienced teachers are in your children's schools worldwide! Funded by hefty contributions from billionaires like Bill Gates and the Walton family, it receives millions of dollars each year to place college graduates with perfunctory training into schools around the nation.
The TFA model assumes teachers are a commodity, bodies to fill seats behind desks facing students. No particular expertise required. If it's such a great model, maybe we'll start seeing CraigList ads for positions like these:
1. Heal for America — The healthcare system in America is crumbling, and what we really need to solve it are quality doctors. Give aspiring doctors 6 weeks of training, then put them in the most overcrowded hospitals around the country. If successful, we can send them abroad!
2. Police for America — Let’s solve the problem of gun violence on our streets once and for all by getting rid of corrupt and inept police officers. We will give aspiring police officers 6 weeks of training and then put them in neighborhoods with the highest rates of violent crime.
3. Experiment for America — If we want to cure cancer, we need fresh voices in the scientific community. Obviously, the scientists who’ve been working on a cure for the past decades aren’t doing their job very well, as cancer rates are skyrocketing with no cure in sight. Aspiring chemists will get six weeks of training, and then be put in charge of experiments testing cancer-curing drugs.
4. Defend America — The war in Afghanistan has been draining resources from the American people. We need better soldiers on the ground, or this conflict will never be resolved. What we need are bright young soldiers to shake things up a little bit. We will give aspiring army officers 6 weeks of training, and then put them in charge of units in the most complex arenas of war.
If you're like me, you're laughing at these four examples. But they are exactly what Teach for America does. They recruit green college kids, give them six weeks' of group training, and turn them out like freshly-baked cookies to teach in challenged districts and inner-city schools. Their salaries are covered by the billionaire donors. In some cases those donors designate specific school districts and positions their donations are intended to cover.
Here's a lovely recruiting video. It all seems so nice, so inspiring. But it's not. It's grueling, brutal and unfair to the students and the TFA recruits.
In case anyone was wondering why teachers' unions are such a critical part of our education system, go read a few TFA "after"stories and ask yourself whether you're ready for other professions to adopt the same model.