Why I’m calling on all university faculty to refuse to write letters of recommendation to TFA


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  • I fear that so many young people, especially those interested in the Teaching Profession see the chance to teach overseas as an altruistic way to do ‘their bit” for the world society. Here in Australia we have no similar program but many newly graduated teachers wish to go to some of the ‘hardest’ or ‘less desirable low SES schools’ to do some good for the students there also (including within our remote Indigenous Communities) however because we followed the US policy of compulsory testing literacy and numeracy we are also being compliant in “cloaking inequity”.

    As our schools are ranked, more resources are NOT provided to the lower ranked schools we just create ghettos of low SES schools with the more affluent families from these communities opting to send their children to better ranked State schools, or go into massive family and personal debt to attend “Private” or full-fee paying Independent Schools which inevitably top the NAPLAN ranking tables.

    Thus we have a cycle of inequity beyond anything a gifted and committed teaching graduate can overcome. It’s tough to teach reading to secondary kids who have spent the nights on the street or friends couches to avoid going home to domestic violence, substance abuse or even cramped living quarters with no computer or even table space to open a text book, if the family could afford to buy it, let alone have anyone there who can help the student read it.

    In equality is cloaked by much Government feel good policy, especially in education and foreign aid programs.


  • Monty J. Thornburg, Ph.D.

    Dear Dr. Vasques-Heilig. I’m a K-12 teacher and I came from the ranks of a forerunner of TFA; the National Teacher Corps, many years ago. It was one of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiatives from the later 60s. In the 80s & 90s world of “privatization” I believe that TFA borrowed on the (TC) Teacher Corps model in some ways. However, I might add, universities ran the programs and included a “traditional” two year internship, not a 5 to 6 week summer program. Now, as I understand it, TFA wants to make claims of being for Civil Rights and Social Justice with their model.

    The common element between TFA and the Teacher Corps programs of the past, I believe, is that the TC programs were designed for persons with academic backgrounds outside of education, to bring them in. The Teacher Corps Model was coupled with the goals similar to the VISTA Programs and had a community service component, too. And, it was more similar to VISTA or Peace Corps in that larger societal issues; Civil Rights, poverty, discrimination, health care- all the elements identified in the “War on Poverty.”

    I have to say that I was influenced by Diane Ravitch when writing my master’s thesis years later on “Education Vouchers and Parental Choice in Education” and I’m now equally impressed now with her admission of being wrong about her previous beliefs. Did any of us see the larger picture of privatization coming as it began during the 80s with the Regan “revolution” with respect to education with Wm. Bennett and alliances with the Bush Family and others and the $billions they’d make through “testing” and “teaching” to the test, as kids and teachers became pawns under the guise of accountability? My opinion!

    I’m really impressed with your stand or position and your explanations after reading your essay completely. My gut reaction at first, however, when I read the title of your blog was a rejection of the idea! I do believe it to be useful for society to find ways to bring talented persons from outside traditional k-12 tracks into education and into public schools. A dilemma!

    I do question whether your solution will have sufficient impact- but it’s a step and a courageous one! As I see it, k-12 education is now used by corporate interests- I guess you said that! Will your suggestion make a difference with respect to these larger issues? The “privatization” of many elements of society now occurs and the ways in which corporations are trying to create governance where democratic institutions have traditionally stood is the problem! Charter schools illustrate this!

    To illustrate in another way, I offer this year’s “Project Censored” list as a way of demonstrating the larger issues of which education is a big part. In 6 of its first 5 articles “Censored” lists the following: (1) “Failure of Corporate Media” (2) “Richest Global 1% hide $trillions” (3) “Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens Corporate Global Governance” (5) “Hate Groups and Anti-government Groups on Rise Across US” (6) “Billionaires Rising Wealth Intensifies Poverty and Inequality.” All of these topics seem to highlight your points but from other perspectives. Thank you for your extraordinary attempt to raise the bar for justice and social justice both. I have to wonder how much media attention your idea will receive?


  • Michael Paul Goldenberg

    My e-mail is mikegold@umich.edu


  • Michael Paul Goldenberg

    Kristin, no worries. I tried to make clear that I wasn’t suggesting that anyone was implying antisemitism. But I have been around long enough to know that some folks can be pretty sensitive to symbols, words, and so forth. I assumed the choice of the six-pointed star was one of convenience, not ideology. 🙂

    I just figured that it was better to point it out than not. Maybe I’m just being overly-cautious, but with the option of replacing it with a hexagon, I figured better safe than sorry.

    I also agreed with the blog piece, as I said in my original comment. I’m a fierce critic of TFA, its politics, its creepy agenda, and the entire ugly privatization movement of which it is a part. I follow a few bloggers from New Orleans directly and via Diane Ravitch’s blog, but it’s so hard to keep up, particularly where I don’t really know much about the local scene, the current players, etc. Hell, I’ve been in southeast Michigan for 21+ years and still have very limited contact with the ever-changing power structure in Detroit and its public schools, not to mention the power structure in Lansing.

    But at the more national level, the puppet strings tend to tie together and wind up in the hands of a few familiar people and organizations. You can trace the folks fighting progressive mathematics education to the same folks who fought and still fight against any approach to literacy education that isn’t completely oriented to phonics. And a lot of those same folks are backing the Common Core (though some are opposing it, an internecine in-fight I can almost savor).

    Feel free to share anything you think I would find of interest. My sense is that we’re very much on the same side of most of the relevant issues.



  • Hello Michael:

    Thank you for your comment. I am the researcher who created the policy network diagram and have been researching education reform in New Orleans for almost a decade. Please know that I have written extensively on reform in New Orleans and have never argued that the religious affiliations of local, state, or national actors have anything whatsoever to do with what is occurring. The intent of the diagram, in fact, was to show the wide array of actors and organizations that support charter school development in New Orleans.

    The star is a standard shape in the Microsoft Visio program that I used. It didn’t occur to me when I chose it that anyone would associate it with Judaism. It’s one among many shapes and all are used in graphing, flow charts, etc. However, the point you raise is important and one I will consider carefully. Perhaps I should use a different shape in future versions of the diagram, as I would never invoke anti-Semitic arguments. Not only are such arguments false, but they run counter to my life’s work, which is focused on equity and justice and firmly rooted in anti-racist traditions.

    The article and diagram underwent external peer-review through Berkeley Review of Education and none of the reviewers took note of the shape. Thus, I appreciate your comment and will make amendments in the future.

    If you are interested in reading further my work on New Orleans reform, let me know and I will graciously provide you with additional material.

    With respect,



  • Michael Paul Goldenberg


    I agree with your take on TFA and admire your project. Might I suggest you rethink that diagram, however? The six-pointed star has associations with Judaism and, unfortunately, with anti-Semitism, that I think you would wish to avoid, particularly given that a lot of folks affiliated with TFA are of Jewish heritage and/or faith.

    Wouldn’t a hexagon work as well?


    • The diagram is from the reblogged post. I don’t believe there is any connection between the use of a star in the conceptual framework and the Star of David.


      • Michael Paul Goldenberg

        Not saying there’s a conscious connection. I’m saying there is an association that many people will likely make because it’s deeply embedded in Western culture.

        I suppose I should track down the folks who made the diagram and suggest the change to them.


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