Can time heal these wounds?
January 31, 2015 12:16 PM   Subscribe

In 2001, Josh Kaplowitz was a recent Yale graduate and Teach for America worker in a Washington D.C. public school. After pushing 7 year old Raynard Ware--something still he still disputes--Kaplowitz was arrested and then the subject of a $20M lawsuit. Eleven years later, Kaplowitz, by this point a lawyer, received a friend request on facebook from Ware: the Washington Post Magazine has the story of their reconnection. posted by MoonOrb (90 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
This could be made into a film with a LOT of Oscarbait potential. I see Casey Affleck as Kaplowitz and Viola Davis as the mother. We just need a good young and adult Ware.
posted by Renoroc at 12:53 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a former TFAer, it is absolutely a PR driven organization. Kaplowitz has always struck me as a bit of a schmuck, but since character assassination of critics has, on occasion, been part of TFA's M.O., I'm not sure how much credence to give that impression.

I'd advise any college student considering it to run the other direction. Join the Peace Corps instead.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:55 PM on January 31, 2015 [19 favorites]


Kaplowitz bristled when Mullings said she forgave him, but he decided to leave it at that because she didn’t seem to have any lingering resentment. He had once accused Mullings of “fraudulently” winning the settlement money; now he says “there was less conniving than I assumed at the time. Now I look back and she’s got three kids, in public housing — I certainly think she took advantage of the situation for financial gain, but I now think she genuinely thought something had happened. And the fact that Raynard is the person he is today is largely because of her.”

So he still thinks she lied to get a settlement and yet is offended that she forgives him for shoving her seven-year-old.
posted by winna at 1:01 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well this definitely is a chaotic situation. Every party did something wrong that they felt they needed to do in their own best interest, because nobody else was looking out for them. People in desperate situations will resort to desperate measures. In the end the mom got what she wanted, which was someone to look out for her kid and get him on a good path.

As for the teacher, first-year teachers shouldn't be dumped into any classroom on their own. You can't just learn how to be a teacher in a 6-week summer session. It seems especially unethical to dump a random 22 year old into a classroom where the kids actually need teachers to teach them because the kids aren't necessarily going to do fine no matter what like in other districts.
posted by bleep at 1:07 PM on January 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


So he still thinks she lied to get a settlement and yet is offended that she forgives him for shoving her seven-year-old.

This is less obnoxious if Kaplowitz didn't shove Ware to the same extent Ware claimed he had been shoved. If Kaplowitz didn't actually do it, I can understand why he'd bristle at this. It doesn't feel so nice to be forgiven for something you didn't actually do. I think one of the interesting things about this story is that this central question--what actually happened in that moment--isn't totally answered, and consequently, it's not as much of a neat Hollywood story as it might appear on first blush.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:12 PM on January 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


yet is offended that she forgives him for shoving her seven-year-old

He claims he didn't do it. So yeah, totally makes sense if it's true, and if he's lying, totally makes sense to maintain his story.
posted by spaltavian at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


"This is less obnoxious if Kaplowitz didn't shove Ware to the same extent Ware claimed he had been shoved. If Kaplowitz didn't actually do it, I can understand why he'd bristle at this. It doesn't feel so nice to be forgiven for something you didn't actually do. I think one of the interesting things about this story is that this central question--what actually happened in that moment--isn't totally answered, and consequently, it's not as much of a neat Hollywood story as it might appear on first blush."

I don't think there's actually an answer there. I mean, think about the difficulties we have with eyewitness testimony in general, then combine that with how much of an, for lack of a better word, "origin myth" this is to both of them. Both of them could have Rashamoned this so long ago that there's no way to ever really discover the objective truth especially past the emotional content.
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 PM on January 31, 2015 [13 favorites]


MoonOrb: "it's not as much of a neat Hollywood story as it might appear on first blush."

Uh, what? I mean, this is basically a non-fictional version of Bonfire of the Humanities.
posted by pwnguin at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think one of the interesting things about this story is that this central question--what actually happened in that moment--isn't totally answered

And almost certainly can't be, at this point, because it's layered beneath years of process and interviews and questions and reconsiderations.

As for the teacher, first-year teachers shouldn't be dumped into any classroom on their own. You can't just learn how to be a teacher in a 6-week summer session.

I really don't understand how Teach For America ever seemed like a good idea except as a pretty cynical attempt to downgrade teaching as a professional occupation.
posted by fatbird at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2015 [29 favorites]


I think the third link below the fold is supposed to be this.
posted by advil at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


You know what strikes me as really sad? Because of the lawsuit, Ware got the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student. Maybe the charges were false or exaggerated, but why on earth should he need to be shoved by a teacher to get the things to which every 7-year-old should be entitled?

Kaplowitz sounds like he was a terrible teacher and maybe not a great guy, and if I were Ware I wouldn't particularly trust him. But this is so clearly a story of systemic failure, rather than something that was primarily Kaplowitz's or even Teach for America's fault.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:36 PM on January 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


Because of the lawsuit, Ware got the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: Rashamoned this so long ago.
posted by bigZLiLk at 1:42 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Join the Peace Corps instead.

Or the Coast Guard.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:44 PM on January 31, 2015 [25 favorites]


I really don't understand how Teach For America ever seemed like a good idea except as a pretty cynical attempt to downgrade teaching as a professional occupation.

Folks who support TFA really do think that it's pretty easy for most smart people to teach, and that the systemic issues of educational underperformance are significantly due to ineffective educators. They're massively wrong, but I don't believe that they're disingenuous.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:45 PM on January 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


Join the Peace Corps instead.

Or the Coast Guard.


Yeah, that's another good one. Tricare and sailing around in boats beats contracting Dengue fever and getting accused of being CIA.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Because of the lawsuit, Ware got the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems

I hate the thought that Ware's mother might have cynically used the incident to this end (which the article does not suggest--she's right that Kaplowitz shouldn't have laid hands on Ware at all), but even if she did... I would have trouble blaming her for doing so.

My wife is a teacher in a difficult school, and the signs of systemic failure are everywhere, obvious, and dealt with as possible on a triage basis. Her own principle has been disciplined for pushing too hard to address various issues. For a parent to decide to take a hardheaded and child-interested route is a pretty understandable decision, even if it tears at the larger, failing structure.
posted by fatbird at 1:49 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even if the it was true that "the systemic issues of educational underperformance are significantly due to ineffective educators", I don't see how in the world the answer could be to throw untrained and inexperienced "smart" people into the mix. I have never heard of a problem where "Let's get some people who have no idea what they're doing to solve the problem" actually worked.

This is an aside but I was reading about how in World War II there was a massive need for labor to churn out ships and planes and stuff as fast as possible so they had women doing jobs that only men had done in the past. That wasn't news to me but what I found amazing was that they did actually take the time to train people appropriately and get them professionally certified. I feel like that step would be skipped if the same thing had to happen today. Oh who cares, just get the shit out the door, etc.
posted by bleep at 1:50 PM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Uh, what?

"not as much of a Neat Hollywood story" was my shorthand for "not quite a situation that is unambiguously resolved in a way that all major players reach a completely satisfying closure and common understanding," not "this is a story that is incapable of being made into a movie" (especially a fine, fine movie like Bonfire).
posted by MoonOrb at 1:51 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're massively wrong, but I don't believe that they're disingenuous.

I suppose that once people hold onto massively wrong beliefs for long enough, it doesn't matter much to me whether they're disingenuous or not, it matters more to me that the beliefs are widespread and harmful.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:54 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really don't understand how Teach For America ever seemed like a good idea except as a pretty cynical attempt to downgrade teaching as a professional occupation.

It's more of a PR whitewash to union breaking than anything else. Freshfaced white liberal college kids wouldn't be the catalyst to crush teacher salaries and siphon money away from the public system into private run charter schools, would they?
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2015 [22 favorites]


I really don't understand how Teach For America ever seemed like a good idea except as a pretty cynical attempt to downgrade teaching as a professional occupation.

I've read that when it first started, one of the goals was actually to make teaching a more prestigious career path, by recruiting kids from Ivy League and similar colleges. Obviously it has strayed extremely far from this original vision (and the reasoning behind this vision on the first place was pretty elitist, obviously).
posted by lunasol at 1:57 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

Blue book on a used 2002 325i is under 5k, don't make out it a to be a T-bone steaks and Cadillacs situation when it's clearly not.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:01 PM on January 31, 2015 [38 favorites]


Folks who support TFA really do think that it's pretty easy for most smart people to teach

I don't doubt the sincerity of people like Kaplowitz who join the program. It's the organizers and creators of whom I'm suspicious.

I've read that when it first started, one of the goals was actually to make teaching a more prestigious career path, by recruiting kids from Ivy League and similar colleges.

I had a colleague at RSA Security, an account manager, who was carefully managing his finances and career track with a 20 year plan to return to teaching in his late 40s, when he felt like he'd be very prepared to teach effectively, and smart or wise enough to bring real value to the classroom. That seems a much better way to shift prestige professions into teaching--get law firms to pledge paid sabbaticals for partners to spend a year in a classroom.

That said, a huge amout of teaching skill is just classroom management, and that's something no six week course can prepare you for, so I'd still be sceptical.
posted by fatbird at 2:04 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Join the Peace Corps instead.

Or the Coast Guard.

Or the International House of Pancakes.
posted by XMLicious at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

Is it viable to give luxury goods to all kids who're doing poorly? Of course not. But you know what? I find this attitude, primarily held by at-least-middle-class white people, totally baffling. Well, yes. Rich people buy fancy cars to feed their self-esteem all the time. Just to feel like they have nice things, and then to go out into the world being a person who has nice things, is a thing that makes coping with the rest of life substantially nicer. Why would this not happen for poor people who suddenly came into money? Oh, I'm sorry, poor people who get money are supposed to, what, life the rest of their lives as modestly as possible to avoid offending the sensibilities of anybody else?

This is very similar to calling into question the fact that Make-a-Wish kids need trips to Disney World. Well, of course they don't need trips to Disney. They and their families, however, have their lives substantially improved by having something nice, because their lives up until that point have been in many ways painful and stressful. It's not something anybody's going to suggest as a wide-scale way to deal with problem students, but yes, having nice things in your life can be a substantial help to mental/behavioral health issues. And I think it's telling, here, that when they elected to splurge, they evidently did so on what was basically BMW's least expensive car, and it's about the same price as lots of SUVs and stuff that aren't from luxury brands. And he's still driving it 13 years later.

But, no, they're poor people, they have to be even more virtuous than that.
posted by Sequence at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2015 [72 favorites]


Kaplowitz sounds like he was a terrible teacher and maybe not a great guy, and if I were Ware I wouldn't particularly trust him.

It's more than a little irresponsible to post criticism directed towards real people's character online, especially when you can't even in a position to make an informed judgement.

The circumstances described in the 2003 article are truly outrageous and this guy has already spent much of his life being attacked and scrutinized by strangers. Some basic kindness should be exercised online too.
posted by Winnemac at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

It would have worked for me.
posted by happyroach at 2:12 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

It worked for this guy.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


It worked for this girl.
posted by box at 2:45 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Did it work for this guy?
posted by I-baLL at 3:47 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I read this and noticed that I recognized the Big Law firm that Kaplowitz is working at, looked up his firm webpage and his extensive case history, and concluded, maybe unfairly, that white privilege is still working. Despite the allegations and the settlement, Kaplowitz still managed to get into UVA law school (that's an ivy, right?), which is incredibly difficult, and is now pulling in about 200K a year or more, mostly, it seems, defending and/or advising companies accused of environmental waste violations (though admittedly doing worthwhile pro bono work on the side).

Not to say it's WRONG his life rebounded like this, just that EVERYBODY ought to be able to rebound like this, not just white dudes with Yale degrees. But they don't.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


Apparently a BMW 325 was one of the resources and support that he needed to deal with his behavioral problems and become a successful student.

If he ever needs to do any mechanical repairs, he'll need to be shoved by one of his professors in order to pay for parts.
posted by 445supermag at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Join the Peace Corps instead.

Or the Coast Guard.


I did, in fact, join the Coast Guard, and then became a teacher, using the GI Bill (and working, and blah blah) to get my teaching credential from Cal State Long Beach, which was pretty well-regarded for teacher training. I started teaching in 2003.

First job: one year at a charter school in Long Beach. Moved to Seattle, dropped out of teaching for a year, went back in 2005.

It's 2015. I have had all of one year of contract teaching. The rest has been subbing, albeit much of it long-term (including semester-length). I'm a very good teacher, and I don't think it's arrogant to say that -- not when I've been handed so many severely damaged classrooms and managed to turn them around. It's not what I wanted to do as a teacher. There are many teachers who want that, but what I wanted was the gifted classrooms. But I never got a classroom of my own for longer than that one good year, and then that school just went quiet on me and hoped I'd fade away rather than just telling me that my position was already filled for the next year.

Again, though: from 2005 - 2013, I busted my ass trying to find a teaching job, to no avail, despite glowing recs, a solid record, good academics, and a very good reputation from subbing in multiple districts. Yet Seattle & other places that have no shortage of qualified applicants want to hire from TFA, because it allows them to pull end-runs around unions and because hiring newer teachers lets them save money. Screw the turnover, right?

2013 was the year where I started making considerably better money as a writer than as a sub, so I've stopped trying to get into a classroom. I don't even want that anymore. Not with all the bullshit teachers are saddled with.

And the sad thing is: TFA is just one end of an awful spectrum. The other end is the Masters of Ed. programs. I work with student-teachers all the time who are doing a concurrent credential & masters program, and the mountains of bullshit busywork forced upon them by those programs -- for which they have to pay tuition costs about as brutal as you might imagine, while teaching as an intern for enough hours that they can't hold down a job on the side even if they had the energy -- just leaves me viscerally angry.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:16 PM on January 31, 2015 [34 favorites]


There is no moral universe in which a financial settlement was the appropriate response to the alleged incident. Ware's mother wasn't wrong to demand it - that's how the system works - but the correct response would have been an apology, better training for Kaplowitz and the other staff, better options for educators generally; all the things that might ameliorate the problem of unwilling, disruptive students, and teachers who have no agency.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:16 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


(that's an ivy, right?)

No, it's not. Good, prestigious school. But not literally an Ivy League member.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:20 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's another good one. Tricare and sailing around in boats beats contracting Dengue fever and getting accused of being CIA.

Funny thing: when my ship headed home after taking part in the "Haitian Vacation" in 1994, we got this cute little message from somewhere higher up in command saying, "Oh, hey, we should've had you guys taking malaria pills that whole time. Ha ha, our bad, sorry."

(Confession: people framing the Coast Guard as some sort of "easy" branch of the service gets me about as angry as people who think that teaching is easy...but somehow, I feel like this isn't the thread to try to change that perspective.)
posted by scaryblackdeath at 4:21 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's just cool papa bells thing he recommends the coast guard under all circumstances. It's funny but I'm pretty sure he means it?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:38 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also fuck Teach for America with 100million hot spoons.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:39 PM on January 31, 2015 [8 favorites]


So he still thinks she lied to get a settlement and yet is offended that she forgives him for shoving her seven-year-old.

"And yet"? If he thinks she perjured herself, then of course he's offended. Why would he not be? If someone perjured themselves and it cost you a night in jail, a ruined reputation, and the tax payers a large check, wouldn't you be offended? (NB he characterized it as a nudge, but so what? In what world is a shove worth millions of dollars, or even 90,000?) It would of course be expecting too much for her to thank him for being the agency of her good fortune.

On the other might-have-beens, I have to wonder if he had had a better teaching experience right out the gate, he might have learned the craft better, stuck with it, and be doing something other than law. Lot of sneer here on for the guy, I suppose because Male, Yale, Colorless and Upper Middle Class, but, you know, he made the effort, which is more than most are willing to do.

For what it's worth, his story accords with far too many such stories I've read about and heard about first hand from idealistic teachers in crap schools. Allegedly the who Touch The Student lawsuit lottery is a thing, which hogties teachers for good or for ill.

At this point, I have no idea what you do with schools filled with unwilling, disruptive students and it would seem that no one else does either. (Well, I do, but they're so un-PC that they'll never fly.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


At this point, I have no idea what you do with schools filled with unwilling, disruptive students and it would seem that no one else does either.

The realistic solutions all involve lots more money for education, which isn't politically realistic.

But, as I've said in other threads on teaching issues: We all know our schools don't provide the outcomes we hope for. We want this fixed. However, we cannot legislate change in our parents, nor can we legislate our children into being good students. We can, however, legislate and litigate the living hell out of our teachers, right? Well, all I've got is this hammer, so I guess this problem is just made of nails!
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:16 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Touch The Student" lawsuit lottery? Citations needed.

IndigoJones, the sneering, I think, is for TFA. It's not the fault of the 22 year-old Male, Yale, and Colorless that they believe they can fix whatever is wrong in the world the Poors with their mere presence. I still wish they'd stop.
posted by allthinky at 5:18 PM on January 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's not the fault of the 22 year-old Male, Yale, and Colorless that they believe they can fix whatever is wrong in the world the Poors with their mere presence.

There's no chance that this guy just thought he would be doing some realistic level of good in a single classroom through a lot of hard work, is there? Like, being Male, Yale and Colorless means he MUST have thought he'd be pulling this off through sheer majesty of birth?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:38 PM on January 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think both things could be true at the same time.
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Blue book on a used 2002 325i is under 5k, don't make out it a to be a T-bone steaks and Cadillacs situation when it's clearly not.

That beemer is worth more than my last 3 cars put together. Looks like prime rib and champagne to me.

And he's still driving it 13 years later.

I don't think you quite have a handle on the time line here.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:01 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's just cool papa bells thing he recommends the coast guard under all circumstances. It's funny but I'm pretty sure he means it?

It started as earnest advice for young, aimless people on AskMe that were all like, "What should I do with my life?" Then someone pointed out I had wrote that, like, 20+ times, so yeah, now it's a goof. Lots of young, aimless people, I suppose.

But here's a bigger point I'd like to make: There's too many goddamn wannabe volunteers that only want to volunteer on their terms. As in, they're really looking to volunteer, but only if it offers exotic travel, meaningful adventures and organic vegetables. How about helping out at that school down the road? Fuck that, I wanna join the Peace Corps, so I can go to Thailand!

You join Teach for America, and rather than discover your true inner self, you instead discover that teaching is, you know, hard fucking work and you'd rather go to law school? Fuck. You. Pay your taxes and we'll pay professional teachers what they deserve. Bet you're the kind of person that wants to help out at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, but fuck the other 364 days of the year.

You know what you call people who demand that all social interactions happen on their terms? Assholes.

So, yeah, join the Coast Guard. Go volunteer and do hard work Not For Yourself Alone. Everybody wins. You'll be a better person for it, you'll have stories to tell, money in your pocket, and some old, salty Chief Petty Officer will scream the narcissism right out of you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:07 PM on January 31, 2015 [25 favorites]


Ugh. Teach for America. I know lovely people who have done Teach for America and I know they are hard working and well intentioned but it takes a certain amount of hubris to think that you can come in as an (almost always) outsider of a community and work in some of the most challenging schools in the country with a fraction of the experience and training that other teachers have and do a better job than the people who are already working there. How hard can teaching be, amirite?

I did City Year right out of high school, which does have a touch of the weird white-savior complex at times but really CY is a so much better model in so many ways--it's the most diverse group of people I've ever been involved in, including significant representation of and leadership from communities being served, and corps members have a role that is in addition to rather than instead of experienced teachers.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:26 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


even if she did... I would have trouble blaming her for doing so.

I would have no problems blaming her. She didn't just sue the school, she also sued him personally and apparently pressed criminal charges.
posted by corb at 6:47 PM on January 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


Lots of TFA bashing in here, and as usual, most of it is ignorant of what actually happens in TFA: the training, support, selection, and all the processes in place to keep situations like this from happening. That they do very rarely is a testament to the quality of the service that TFA delivers.

I know leotrotsky has his own personal TFA demons, and that's fair enough. But there are lots and lots of stories of amazing people doing TFA, struggling mightily, and then figuring things out.

Nobody--absolutely nobody--in TFA thinks for a second that it's easy or simple to make an excellent teacher or corps member. It is categorically not.

Most people outside of TFA do not understand the amount of training and ongoing support corps members get. Often they spend as much time as regular, newly qualified teachers do before they walk in a classroom. Case in point: Florida's student teaching requirement for alternative licensure is on the order of *hours*, not months. Iowa's--among the stricter states--is ten weeks. TFA falls in the middle of that range in terms of pre-service contact hours, and given what TFA corps members have to do during that time--move from observing to assisting to co-teaching--is more rigorous than what lots of states and school districts around the country require.

Then there is the ongoing support of the local staff, professional development, workshops, training, the pre-enrollment phase work corps members do, and above and beyond all of that: the actual graduate coursework that corps members in most states are required to start almost immediately after they begin teaching. To say that TFA corps members are untrained is a complete mischaracterization of their preparation.

And of course, just as is the case with any group of first-year teachers, for some this training is not enough and they do not succeed. It doesn't happen in alarming numbers, and plenty of research exists to show that TFA offers substantial student benefits--especially since over the past decade, TFA has moved to a very data-driven approach to teacher accountability. Moreover, lots of corps members stay in education after they complete their commitment. Ultra-effective programs like KIPP were started by TFA alums.

Getting someone with the knowledge, disposition, and intensive training to a place where they can go into a classroom and do actual good is more than possible--it happens every day in hundreds of corps members' classrooms. I've seen them with my own eyes. I was them myself for two of the hardest but most rewarding years I've ever spent. My school was also in DC and was orders of magnitude more difficult than the school Kaplowitz describes. I also know that my experience is a sample of one, and I don't map it onto other corps members' experiences and assume that 'it's easy' as a few people implied upthread. What I do is volunteer with TFA even today, 21 years after I started my commitment, to help corps members figure the things that *every* first-year teacher has to figure out: classroom management, working with few resources, working with sometimes unsupportive administration, and making meaningful contact with parents. I can guarantee you Kaplowitz had access to people like me willing to help, as well as dozens of other TFA resources to help him. I don't know why he didn't take advantage of them, but I do know that when struggling corps members use their networks, more often than not they get the help they need.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


it takes a certain amount of hubris to think that you can come in as an (almost always) outsider of a community and work in some of the most challenging schools in the country with a fraction of the experience and training

I don't think it's that at all. Not for a lot of these teachers. Not for the ones I've known.

People get into TFA because they want the job. The standard path to a teaching credential is a bachelors plus a year (or more) of credential training, including anywhere from a semester to a year of "student teaching," which is where you teach part- or full-time for free--in fact, you're paying tuition for the privilege--while going to school at the same time. My credential program included professors who had these rosy ideas that we should all take a whole 'nother year of upper division content knowledge courses, because didn't we care enough about our teaching that we wanted to be as good as possible? They never stopped to think about how freakin' expensive that is. And in a lot of markets, you're not competitive until you've also gotten your Masters of Ed., and I've gotta say, I've yet to see reason to believe those are worth the paper they're printed on, much less the graduate school tuition one must pay for them.

And then you've got to actually GET the job. That whole belief everyone has about teacher shortages? It's a vile fucking myth in a lot of areas. It's a scurrilous lie, right up there with the lies we tell young people to get them to enlist in the military. The truth is, there are shortages of particular teachers with particular training, and in particular areas...but beyond that, the job market for teaching can be very tough.

So, no. I don't blame people who want to go into teaching for trying the TFA path, because they give you this notion that you'll actually get a leg up in getting a job, and it's a job where you learn by doing much more than through sitting in a classroom. The truth is, TFA is selling people a bill of goods, but it's a damn attractive one when you're already looking at your brutal student debt and an intimidating job market.

Hate the program? Sure. Hate the people drawn in? I think that's way too unfair.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:44 PM on January 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, FWIW:

Poor kids have serious challenges. Affluent kids have serious challenges. Special ed kids have serious challenges, and so do gifted kids. The toughest teaching job I ever had was when I came into a predominantly black & poor high school in the spring to replace a teacher who was, to be blunt, painfully lazy. I won over two of those classes. The other three? So rough. I note the ethnicity because I feel like that did present a real challenge for me; I wasn't from their community, I had a tough time gaining acceptance, and not without good reason on their part. Basic training was fun and enjoyable by comparison.

But don't think for a moment that the affluent schools are a cakewalk, either. They've just got different challenges.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:52 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yellowcandy: no offense but you sound like a cult member. Can you say in just a few sentences why our schools are better off with TFA taking millions of dollars away from lifelong educators and investing them in funding college grads who don't stick around to work as teachers in the communities they want to help? I have no doubt that sometimes it works, kids are helped, etc, but just fundamentally it's inferior to like, hiring good teachers and paying then well, right?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:57 PM on January 31, 2015 [12 favorites]


Can you say in just a few sentences why our schools are better off with TFA taking millions of dollars away from lifelong educators...

Again: particularly in areas where there is no shortage of qualified candidates from university training programs. TFA established itself with the notion that they'd help fill gaps in areas where it was difficult to place teachers: tough inner city areas, rural areas, etc. Only they've also tried to get into areas like Seattle, where you can't swing a coffee cup without hitting a recent teaching program grad looking to get a job.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:05 PM on January 31, 2015


Potomac Avenue: Sure. I don't work for TFA. I just believe in the mission and have seen the good it does. I also know that most people don't actually have a really good sense of how TFA actually works. But if you think that amounts to my sounding like a cult member, that's your opinion.

TFA does not 'take millions of dollars away from lifelong educators'. TFA is not funded by the school districts. It's funded by its donors. New corps members are employed by the school systems and are brought in just like any other teacher. TFA does not pay corps members nor take any money away from 'lifelong educators' in any way.

TFA places teachers in teacher shortage areas only, so TFA is not displacing other teachers--experienced or not. The definition of what is a teacher shortage area is also not decided on by TFA, it's the school district, state, and Department of Education.

There is a lot of ongoing research on persistence rates of new TFA corps members vs. other teachers. In general, the research tends to shake out this way: TFA teachers have a *much* higher persistence rate from Year 1 to Year 2 than the mean regular teacher. After Year 2 (when the commitment is over), the numbers drop down to about where they are for regular Year 2 teachers, if not a little lower, given that many new corps members come in with a plan to do something different after they finish. Lots of TFA teachers do stick around long after their commitment is over, and many more stay in the world of education, which is one of the organization's goals.

As for your last question about whether it's better than hiring good teachers and paying them well, I think that sounds like a lovely idea. I'd love to see the need for TFA disappear completely.
posted by yellowcandy at 8:41 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


"According to a report shared by the Hechinger Report and The Nation, the Seattle Public School system was facing a $25 million deficit and saw more than 13,800 teachers apply for just 352 full- and part-time positions. In the midst of this, TFA obtained a contract with the district, charging over $4000 per teacher."

"TFA’s original 38 approved applicants had been reduced to just 13, serving ten schools, only three of which addressed the high-needs population, a critical part of TFA’s mission. An official with TFA cited that the issues in Seattle were a “complete aberration” by the organization." ...which is corporate-speak that translates as, "We didn't get away with it when we tried it in Seattle, so we're backpedaling hard and looking for someplace else to pull the same scam."
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:48 PM on January 31, 2015 [5 favorites]


TFA does not 'take millions of dollars away from lifelong educators'. TFA is not funded by the school districts. It's funded by its donors.

Donations are tax deductible and quite specifically reduce tax dollars.

A substantial part of the appeal of charity for the right wing is that is bypasses democratic control and allow donors to instead allocate money that would have gone into the public purse where they see fit.

I have no stake in the TFA argument either way but I do have strong pro-tax and anti-tax deductible charity opinions. But then I am not American and have spent most of life under mostly functioning governments that provided adequate services so there is that distinction I suppose.
posted by srboisvert at 9:38 PM on January 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't know too much about the Seattle situation. What I do know is that the fees paid by the district were a pilot program for training, and ongoing support, and not monies paid to some corporation. If you want to see the actual contract, it's here. I also know that TFA canceled the pilot immediately.

With respect to placement, even in districts that appear to have a teacher glut, there are often schools and clusters that cannot recruit and retain teachers. I don't know the full situation in Seattle, but I do know that Seattle is one of the places where certain schools have an extremely difficult time staffing, despite whatever ratios you may have read about.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:47 PM on January 31, 2015


TFA does not pay corps members nor take any money away from 'lifelong educators' in any way.

Except by replacing tenure track union teaching positions with 2yr contract labor, and sanctimoniously preaching how much better off everyone is for the experience.

TFA is a union busting scheme, period.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:52 PM on January 31, 2015 [16 favorites]


Some basic kindness should be exercised online too.

I completely agree and only hope the same can be extended to Raynard Ware and Sharlene Mullings.
posted by Danila at 10:06 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


but I do know that Seattle is one of the places where certain schools have an extremely difficult time staffing, despite whatever ratios you may have read about.

This seems odd considering the difficult time that my fellow graduates have had getting jobs here in recent years. It's just hard to imagine that the optimal solution to whatever problems Seattle Public Schools faces is "Teach for America" instead of "graduates from the certification programs of the local state university."
posted by MoonOrb at 10:12 PM on January 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


One thing that strikes me about this dude that no one else has mentioned yet is that he was hopefully, painfully naive and optimistic ("I'll write a rap song for my students to perform and it will totally change their lives!"), and that he still appears to be hopefully, painfully naive and optimistic ("I'll write a book with this kid that accused me of assaulting him and it'll totally change people's lives!").
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:58 PM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


"IndigoJones, the sneering, I think, is for TFA. It's not the fault of the 22 year-old Male, Yale, and Colorless that they believe they can fix whatever is wrong in the world the Poors with their mere presence. I still wish they'd stop."

To be fair to Kaplowitz, he totally fucking cops to a lot of the hubris and describes the issues facing students as systemic. He seems as aware as anyone in his position can be about his position, and so some of the criticism here has seemed a bit gratuitous.
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 PM on January 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


The school district settled for $90,000? Absolutely insane. Given that the criminal case was dismissed and there was no evidence, the district should have told the family to take a hike. Even if there had been evidence, a shove like that should have been worth no more than $100. The kid deserved a shove based on his behaviour at the time.

In the end though, good on both of them for being able to move on. In the teacher's position, I'd have found it difficult to respond positively to the FB friend request.
posted by salmacis at 1:04 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Don't Join The Fucking Article!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 1:13 AM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thanks for your response Yellowcandy. But nothing in there convinced me that it's better for private donors (many of which seem to be companies or indiviudals that actively seek to privatize Public education) or the Federal Government (you don't mention it, but that Nation article about TFA says that they get tens of millions of dollars of Fed funding, which could go to programs that actually benefit teachers and schools) to pay for overeducated naive dilettantes who don't know a thing about teaching to put a temporary band aid on impoverished districts rather than creating programs that train and pay good teachers enough to go to those districts instead (by good teachers I mean people that want to teach and live in or at least near the underserved communities, whether they have a degree from a top university or not).

You also say that many graduates of TFA go into "education". Nice choice of words. As the Nation article points out, most of that is because of TFAs awesome professional development programs that funnel those who actually make it 2 years as teachers into public policy and admin jobs so they can continue to spread the good news about private education. That article also says 80% of TFA grads don't become teachers. You say that's close to regular teacher burn out, and maybe that's true, but if that's the case then what is the point of the program? To give undecided English majors a rewarding adventure experience before they have to get a real job without having to get malaria shots? To siphon money and power from unions? To normalize the idea of private solutions to school problems so every district can get inundated and eventually replaced by charter schools? Because nothing in your comment said that the program has been shown to help struggling schools, real teachers, or kids.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:43 AM on February 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


One thing that strikes me about this dude that no one else has mentioned yet is that he was hopefully, painfully naive and optimistic ("I'll write a rap song for my students to perform and it will totally change their lives!"), and that he still appears to be hopefully, painfully naive and optimistic ("I'll write a book with this kid that accused me of assaulting him and it'll totally change people's lives!").

It's worked for him, though. He had a bad time, I'm sure, but the things that happened to him would have permanently ruined the life of anyone who was not in his particular socioeconomic situation. What is to prevent him from being naive when the system is working just fine for him the way it is?

Also it's typical and part of how he can afford to be that naive that people are bending over backward to defend him while sneering at Ware and his mother.
posted by winna at 5:56 AM on February 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


You also say that many graduates of TFA go into "education". Nice choice of words. As the Nation article points out, most of that is because of TFAs awesome professional development programs that funnel those who actually make it 2 years as teachers into public policy and admin jobs so they can continue to spread the good news about private education.

This perfectly describes the 3 people I personally know who went the TFA route out of college. 2 years at an under-privileged school, followed by direct placement into a charter school development company, a staffing company that services charter schools, and a lobbying firm that pushes favorable charter school policies.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:03 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm sorry, poor people who get money are supposed to, what, life the rest of their lives as modestly as possible to avoid offending the sensibilities of anybody else?

Is living within your means now a privilege? Don't BMW-shame me, shirtlord!
posted by stavrogin at 8:30 AM on February 1, 2015


FWIW, the TFA recruiter who approached me told me without prompting that TFA alumni were extremely attractive to law and business schools, and to firms like McKinsey. I'm pretty sure I didn't ask about this, because I'm a chemistry major and nothing on my resume or transcript indicates any interests in these career paths.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:36 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hate the program? Sure. Hate the people drawn in? I think that's way too unfair.

It's not that I hate the people in the program--I used a lot of really positive adjectives for folks I know who are in it. It's not even that I blame them on an individual level for hubris but I do blame the program for cultivating and encouraging that in them in order to sign people up for the program.
posted by geegollygosh at 8:59 AM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of our good family friends, who is a life-long teacher, has always said that TFA would be a fantastic program if they just tweaked one thing: send all of the fresh-faced college students into the easiest, wealthiest schools in the country and give the veteran teachers whose places they are taking a bit of a bonus to teach in a school without money or resources for a year or two.
posted by colfax at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2015 [10 favorites]


That beemer is worth more than my last 3 cars put together. Looks like prime rib and champagne to me.

Congratulations, charlie don't surf, you've won the poverty olympics, again. We all bow to the superiority of your poverty compared to anybody else's. Now that you've won, can you please stop trying to one-up the whole rest of the planet like that's in any way relevant to the discussion? Some people can be underprivileged without having to personally own less stuff for the rest of their lives than you've had for the entirety of yours, even when they come into some quantity of money. It's worth more than my cars, too, because I've owned shit cars, not because someone who owns a car worth $5k is living like Thurston Howell III.
posted by Sequence at 10:03 AM on February 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


So I've read the articles, and I'm looking at all the comments here that are criticizing TFA and Kaplowitz and Ware's Beemer. But the thing that is really sticking with me in all of it is this:
“I used to have to punch him in his chest when he was little because he was off the chain,”
I used to have to punch him in his chest when he was little
punch him in his chest when he was little

So, Ms. Mullings had no culpability in the walking disaster that her son was? Kaplowitz caused the kid grief? Lady, look in the mirror for half a second. If you think punching your small child in the chest didn't exacerbate his behavioral issues, you've got a lot more thinking to do. By all means, criticize TFA. Criticize Kaplowitz for being a (self-admittedly) shitty teacher. But can we please not ignore Mullings' role in her kid's problems?
posted by MissySedai at 10:13 AM on February 1, 2015 [7 favorites]


That beemer is worth more than my last 3 cars put together. Looks like prime rib and champagne to me.

I'm not about to apologize for scraping up a downpayment on a $9K used Prius two years ago. It doesn't make me not broke and living high on the hog, it makes me someone who did the math and understood that the Husband driving 1000 miles a week for work was going to cost a fuck of a lot more in a shitty beater car than it would in making the sacrifice to get a dependable, fuel efficient vehicle that wasn't going to require some sort of repair every other week and $50 to fill the damned tank every other day.

Us broke folks should stick together, not turn on each other for having something perceived as "too nice" for our social station. Bitterness and jealousy is kinda gross.
posted by MissySedai at 10:23 AM on February 1, 2015 [9 favorites]


Potomac Avenue, I know there's nothing that will get you to reassess your feelings, and that's just fine.

I will say that to classify TFA teachers as dilletantes who know nothing about teaching is to ignore the intensive summer institute that, as I mentioned upthread, gives a tremendous amount of preservice training. And as I also mentioned, many 'regular teachers' or 'real teachers' (as you call them) in many states have less experience and training when they set foot into a classroom. I have worked for several years now with a traditional teacher preparation program and can say from first-hand experience with the graduates I see, they are absolutely no better prepared than new TFA corps members.

Charter schools and the movement itself are always going to be controversial. Some people love them, some people hate them. But you can't conflate the concepts of charter schools and private education. I also have mixed feelings about the implementation of the charter school concept in lots of cities. I think it's hard to argue that KIPP academies (founded and run by TFA alums) aren't a net positive for cities though. They, for example, are also most emphatically NOT private education--they are public schools. Part of the core mission of TFA is to make its alums advocates for *public* schools in the US. It's another mischaracterization to say that TFA tries to make its alums advocates of privatizing education-- I wish I could tell you about how much hatred for for-profit, outsourcing organizations like EdisonLearning exists within TFA.

Ultimately, what really matters is the good that TFA is doing. And there's plenty of external research to indicate that it is doing quite a bit of it. I don't care if you want to ignore what I'm telling you about what happens with respect to training and the mission around long-term advocacy for lower-income students, but at least read what the research says.
posted by yellowcandy at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2015


So, Ms. Mullings had no culpability in the walking disaster that her son was?
You know, she raised a son who has beaten some really overwhelming odds. If you looked at the entire universe of poor seven-year-old boys, especially those with dead fathers and single mothers, who were attending terrible DC public schools in 2001, the chances that any one of those kids would be getting ready to graduate from college right now would be miniscule. Her son is not a walking disaster. He's a huge success story. I really don't understand the urge to demonize Ware or his mother.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:44 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the link yellowcandy I will read it, though with a grain of salt, it being a link to TFA's PR page. However, as you say I think the whole concept of TFA runs contrary to what I believe about teachers, having known teachers in many places, including the inner city in DC, rural VA and rundown towns in Boston, from having a teacher wife and a teacher mom and a professor of comparative education for a Dad.

This I think is my biggest issue:
"many 'regular teachers' or 'real teachers' (as you call them) in many states have less experience and training when they set foot into a classroom"

Why isn't the answer then more training for teachers through the school districts? Why does TFA need to exist if your best answer is "They're not worse than real teachers!"

I think you know the answer to that: Because the school districts have failed. That's the whole premise behind TFA right? The school districts have had enough money and time to straighten themselves out, let's let private equity fix it instead. Let's take control away from the unions and the parents who vote for school board members and give it to smart people and they will fix it with special schools and better curricula and Harvard degrees.

It's true that goes against my fundamental instincts. We're barely 100 years into universal public education, barely 50 years out from desegregation, barely 30 years out from Reagonomics. Have we really given public schools a chance to figure things out on their own yet, when every few years a Republican DOE agenda crams some new nonsensical one size fits all big idea policy down everybody's gullet? Has it really been enough time? Can't we give the idea of universal public education a little more slack so that the people that do it for a living--in these places where our unfair and still systematically racist economic system has stuffed all the poor people--along with the local politicians who aren't horrible, and the parents that care, can see if they can figure out how to provide the best education possible to their own populace?

Public school education is the most important experiment in the history of Democracy, as far as I'm concerned, and if it dies I'm not sure Democracy can really be considered a success. Don't mean to soapbox on you, but I really do think that's what is at stake when programs like TFA start proliferating everywhere.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:12 AM on February 1, 2015 [5 favorites]


I hear what you're saying--I really do. I think we're not very far away from one another in our viewpoints, actually. I hope you also realize that part of TFA's mission is to make it so that there is no need for TFA any longer.

That said, where I disagree with you is in partly in your classification of TFA as a 'private equity fix'. It is not. TFA is not in the business of making money off of its mission. It's a not-for-profit organization and behaves like one in terms of its structure, salaries, and engagement.

I also think this is perhaps the critical point of disagreement for me: 'Have we really given public schools a chance to figure things out on their own yet...'?

Yes. Yes, we absolutely have.

When so many children are failing and incapable of escaping poverty, when so many school systems have 'teachers' running classrooms where students do absolutely nothing (literally nothing) [I wish I could count the number of times I saw this happen. It's heartbreaking and is so, so much worse than anything you could ever accuse TFA of doing], and when low-income communities all over the country are unable to provide children with skills to become functionally literate and numerate, I say absolutely we need to act. It's also not one or the other--TFA and other similar organizations work with schools and school systems to change things to improve outcomes for students. They are never completely independent agents.

So no, I don't think we can continue to play the same wait-and-see game that started in the 1950s and 1960s and saw more than a generation of kids undereducated and underprepared. There are real kids who can't wait and shouldn't have to do so.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2015


I really don't understand the urge to demonize Ware or his mother.

Wait, you think talking about admitted child abuse from the woman who sued for suspected child abuse is irrelevant demonizing? Seriously?
posted by corb at 11:48 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I will say that to classify TFA teachers as dilletantes who know nothing about teaching is to ignore the intensive summer institute that, as I mentioned upthread, gives a tremendous amount of preservice training. And as I also mentioned, many 'regular teachers' or 'real teachers' (as you call them) in many states have less experience and training when they set foot into a classroom. I have worked for several years now with a traditional teacher preparation program and can say from first-hand experience with the graduates I see, they are absolutely no better prepared than new TFA corps members.

This looks like a point of fundamental disagreement. I don't see a school district's choice as being between poorly prepared graduates of teacher certification programs that offer less than the equivalent than a summer's worth of TFA training and TFA teachers, who receive a summer's worth of training plus whatever additional support the program provides.

If that were the choice, it would be harder--if I had to choose between TFA teachers and people who were no better prepared than TFA teachers, I would lean generally toward choosing the teachers from the latter group because the likelihood that they would be committed to teaching as a career and the likelihood that they would have ties to and commitment to the community they're serving would seem higher, on the whole, than someone from TFA, even if it's also true that the TFA teacher probably has a much more prestigious bachelor's degree. But I'd concede that this would be a close call.

But is that the actual choice faced by schools? I'm just drawing on my own experience here, but my certification program was 15 months, not 3, and included hours and hours and hours in actual classrooms on top of student teaching. I will also say that my program was probably better than many, but it surely wasn't unusual in its length or level of actual in-the-classroom experience.

I love the idea that graduates of our top universities will go into teaching. I would just prefer that, collectively, we channel our resources in a way that puts these graduates into actual teaching certification programs. I see this as more likely to create the outcome we want to create here.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:57 AM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


So no, I don't think we can continue to play the same wait-and-see game that started in the 1950s and 1960s and saw more than a generation of kids undereducated and underprepared. There are real kids who can't wait and shouldn't have to do so.

They shouldn't have to wait on a half-assed solution like TFA, either.

I'm in favor of trying new things. I'm not in favor of continuing things that plainly don't work. You're also suggesting that TFA is entirely altruistic, but you seem unwilling to face the fact that an org like that can (and, in TFA's face, demonstrably has) grow past its initial concept, or that greedy people will latch onto it and start trying to drag profits out of it, which has also demonstrably happened with TFA.

This does, in fact, pull money away from public school education, which is simply not the lost cause that people pushing private (usually money- and influence-hungry) programs would like to portray it as.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a little hesitant to stand up for Ware's mother because if she really "punched" him in the chest I don't have much sympathy. And I don't hit my own kid. But hitting kids is, I think, not actually illegal and still used in some communities as a means of discipline, particularly boys, particularly a decade and a half ago when Ware was a kid.

There is a difference between a parent hitting a kid and a school system allowing its teachers to hit a kid. Private abuse, while terrible, is of a different magnitude than government sanctioned abuse, right? I'm not saying Ware's mother was right to "punch" her child in the chest, but IMHO it's one thing for her to hit her child in an attempt at discipline and another thing for a teacher who is paid to know better to do it.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:36 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


IMHO it's one thing for her to hit her child in an attempt at discipline and another thing for a teacher who is paid to know better to do it.

With all due respect, this abuse survivor thinks your HO is stupid, wrong, and dangerous.
posted by MissySedai at 2:26 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


Her son is not a walking disaster.

I didn't say "is". I said "was". Past tense, used correctly in a full sentence, surrounded by important context.

This may come as a surprise, hitting children being legal and all, but hitting your children actually DOES cause more problems than one might believe it solves. (Hint: It doesn't solve any, unless you believe teaching your child to fear you is perfectly good "discipline".)
posted by MissySedai at 2:30 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


My parents used to hit me with a belt as a disciplinary measure. It's not something I'd do to my own kids, but it was fairly normal in our neighborhood and it didn't scar me. It would have been scarring for the state to take me away from them for it. It sounds like you had it much, much worse, and I'm sorry. But (again IMHO) not all hitting is the same.

I don't think it would be right to allow public school teachers to hit at all, even though we sometimes allow parents to hit. I'm not disagreeing with you that abusive hitting by parents is terrible and should be stopped and those kids should be helped. I just believe, from my own experience, that not all parental hitting is per se abusive.
posted by onlyconnect at 3:40 PM on February 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


I will never cease to be baffled and disgusted by people who think hitting children is OK.
posted by MissySedai at 4:10 PM on February 1, 2015


Although I never was a TFA teacher, I did go through a short cut program called "Career Switchers" that Virginia sets up for people who have been in a different profession and wish to shift to licensure and teaching. When I was getting out of the military after eleven years and thinking about it, I first set my sights on taking a year to get a M.Ed. + license that would allow me to teach high school English. I dropped that once I figured out that going back to school full-time and getting a job that would allow me to pay the bills for a year might be incredibly hard at my stage of life. Instead, I spent six weeks over the summer getting my provisional license through the program. I luckily used it to get a job at an inner city school, where I spent three years teaching. I now teach English at the post-secondary level.

On one side, I think TFA is not a good program, because it's admittedly not about serving student populations or school districts but serving the clients. On the other hand, I don't like I current teaching programs, and don't think they are effective because of M.Eds.

I've said before, I think teaching should shifted to a paid apprenticeship model where college graduates are made "apprentice teachers" who are hired for lower than normal rates ($25-30,000 a year), but only have half the class size that standard teachers, do. Also, they work directly under a master teacher, who is given a stipend (and an open class period) to work with that teacher. After a year of satisfactory performance, they can gain their journeyman license to teach with increased pay and class load. There's no substitute for teaching, and even with student teaching, there's a huge difference between being a full-time student with that and a full class load every day. Teaching takes training, but it also takes just raw experience of being in a classroom and screwing up. People don't graduate from college good teachers, and so throwing them into the deep end, often in hard school districts is going to only result in limited successes.

On the point about the kid: it sometimes took every inch of my being not to react in a physical way during certain instances in a difficult class. It's hard. It doesn't mean it's acceptable, of course, but I look at Josh Kaplowitz and think that there but for the grace of God go I.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was around when TFA began, and I never participated in the program myself. But I say that I had three friends who went into TFA in the early 1990s and all three of them have stayed in public education their entire career, in a variety of roles. Their contribution into the public system in urban environments has been enormous, and they would not have made that leap without Teach for America.

It was a different time back then. Teach for America was only one of many structural incentives being offered to x-ers who went into teaching. My home state would offer to forgive the cost of your teaching degree in the state system if you were willing to teach in any number of rural districts for at least two years, for instance.

And given the relative numbers of TFA teachers (11,000+?) versus the over 3 million public school teachers, I'm having a pretty hard time getting behind the Union Busting argument. That would make it a pretty inefficient method, would it not?

Personally I'd rather support a Doctors Without Borders approach to teaching-- something which financially facilitates experienced teachers to work in these high difficulty districts. Even my friends who are successful alumnae have doubts about the program (would like to see longer training periods or the term of commitment extended to three years) but isn't the level of vitriol (fuck them with red hot spoons? really?) a little off the charts?
posted by frumiousb at 7:49 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've said before, I think teaching should shifted to a paid apprenticeship model where college graduates are made "apprentice teachers" who are hired for lower than normal rates ($25-30,000 a year), but only have half the class size that standard teachers, do.

Um, where I am, average starting teacher salary is $30k. Some districts in my state have starting salaries as low as $21k. I have the distinction of living in the state that ranks last on this, but the point stands, I think. This is why TFA isn't churning out kids who teach for a couple years and then go on to take on full-time permanent positions in low-income school systems, I'm sure. Starting salaries for teachers are barely a living wage as it is in many places, and despite the fact that average working hours work out to full-time over the course of the year, it's standard for people to justify this with "well you can go get summer job", meaning they expect you to work substantially more than full time just to pay rent while teaching. There's nowhere further down to go to create a step below entry-level teacher, even if you had the spare classrooms to do this, which I suspect most districts don't.
posted by Sequence at 8:28 PM on February 1, 2015


I think all parental hitting is per se abusive. I also think that whether or not Ware's mother hit him is irrelevant - and potentially demonizing - to a discussion of The Incident and its aftermath, unless it's brought up to show one more thing that Ware had to overcome.

It's irrelevant because his mother sued on his behalf, not on her own behalf; the money went to him when he turned 18 (though he did decide to give her a fifth of it). And even if that weren't true, it's still irrelevant because people get to complain about mistreatment - and even seek redress for it - even if they've mistreated others.

There's a pernicious idea floating around out there that black people in particular don't get to complain about mistreatment unless they've been perfect themselves. Information about Ware's mother hitting him connects to that idea more than it does to the story being told, as it doesn't get us any closer to understanding whether or not his teacher hit him or whether he deserved compensation for it. I was disappointed to see it mentioned in the article the way it was.
posted by heisenberg at 8:38 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


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