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Want a Trustworthy Word on Teach for America (TFA)? Listen to Former TFAer Gary Rubinstein

October 30, 2013

Below I have posted two youtube videos by Gary Rubinstein, who joined Teach for America (TFA) in 1991 and who later made the decision to become a career teacher. Gary now writes extensively about the problems associated with the temporary teaching TFA promotes as the “solution” to the complex issues faced in contemporary America public education.

(If you want to read more about TFA founder Wendy Kopp, I wrote this post in January 2013 as part of my National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) series.)

TFA recruits are not teachers. They are often bright, ideological recent college graduates who wish to remedy the ills of the American classroom before moving on to their “real” careers.  They believe that traditional teachers are not “doing it right” and that they can “close the achievement gap” for the students in their temporary classrooms.

When I think of those fresh TFA recruits, I envision innocence and arrogance colliding.

For some, the arrogance wins.

Following their brief stints with TFA, a number are placed in positions of educational leadership– equipped with a destructive agenda that includes the now-usual reformer slate:  evaluating teachers and schools via student test scores; closing community schools and opening under-regulated charters; promoting vouchers, and advocating for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

A number of former TFAers will begin their own education companies or nonprofits, or open their own charter schools.

Make no mistake: The current goal of TFA is to annihilate traditional public education.

However, that is not Gary Rubinstein’s goal. Gary loves authentic learning. He also realizes that TFAer zealousness cannot possibly “end” the challenges faced in the American classroom.

Writings about TFA and its mission abound. As an organization, TFA has placed itself in competition with the traditional classroom teacher, and TFA declares loudly and often that it is winning. That is why I have posted the two youtube videos below. You see, TFA recruits are not the “magic in the classroom” that TFA publicizes them to be.  Gary demonstrates as much in the first video below where he addresses a TFA cohort in a 2003 TFA Summer Institute– he speaks “for an unrepresented voice… the voice of the people (TFA recruits) who had really awful, terrible first years of teaching.”

It’s true: Five weeks of sheltered TFA training is not enough to equip a teacher for the classroom.  In 2003, Gary still believed in the TFA mission, and he still tried to help TFA recruits make the best of their sparse training in his TFA-officially-endorsed position.  Listen to his advice. Imagine you are one of those five-week-trained, young ideologues hastily preparing to enter the public school classroom:

Ten years have passed from the time Rubinstein made the video above to the time of the video below. In 2013, his words are more to the point. His 2013 video is an attempt to openly dissuade would-be 2013 TFA recruits from their compliant roles in destroying public education. Gary isn’t trying to “smooth it over” for these young people as he was in the 2003 video above; he tells them that TFA is a lie; that it promotes a carefully guarded image; that the goal of TFA is to replace traditional public education with privately-run charters that happen to be filled with TFAers.

Rubinstein advises the 2013 TFAers to refuse certain teaching assignments. He advises them to be vocal regarding TFA’s shortcomings. And he tells them that TFA will not look kindly upon their criticisms.

He tells them that 2013 is the “worst year ever” to be a TFA recruit.

Imagine you are a 2013 TFA recruit hearing such a shocking message from a TFA alum:

No holes barred. No punches pulled.

TFA recruits: I hope you are listening.

I appreciate Gary. Not only does he value public education; he values the would-be TFA recruits who often blindly commit to an organization that perpetuates the systematic destruction of authentic public school learning.

Thank you, Gary.

From → TFA

  1. 2old2tch permalink

    When I saw that the first video was almost an hour long, I almost shut it off, but Gary caught me. What he had to say would play well with any new teachers. I laughed right along with the TFA recruits. The second one makes me horribly sad, not because he is wrong but because he is right. Thank you for posting these videos.

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