Let me set the record straight…   5 comments

As I was checking the profiles of my new followers yesterday, I noticed that several of the people are affiliated with either KIPP or Teach for America. I figured that they found me due to my incessant use of #hastags. In previous posts I mentioned Michelle Rhee and the other above-referenced companies. I have never minced words about my feelings on Rhee’s leadership style, or lack thereof, because frankly, that’s my prerogative. Once I noticed who was following me, I tweeted the following random message:

A lot of #TFA people have started following me..hope they don’t get their hopes up b/c I ain’t drinkin the Kool-Aid!

It is not uncommon for me to use sarcasm in my blogs..that’s just part of my personality, especially when everyone with an Ivy League degree claims to be an expert on fixing public education (see, there it goes again). I used the Kool-Aid reference (Jim Jones) to remind people how easily swayed we become when begin worshipping false gods (now that there is from the bible). While I do not discount any progress made by KIPP, TFA, or the teachers and students in D.C.’s public schools, I take issue with the perpetuation of this myth that minorities are not qualified enough to educate minority children. NOTE: I did not say that White teachers could not make a difference. Please read what I wrote. Do not walk away with a different interpretation. Bottom line: I am not a cheerleader for any organization that can set-up shop in some of the poorest minority communities and set the glass ceiling at the principal’s door. Sure they recruit teachers, support staff, and some principals from minority groups, but how many of their upper-level management positions are filled by ethnic and racial minorities? Better yet, look at the boards of KIPP, TFA, and some of the major charter school organizations and count the names that appear more than once. Get back to me on that one. If these companies were genuinely concerned about closing the achievement gap for all ‘disadvantaged’ students, their services would reach beyond the four walls of the school. Perhaps they could ‘color’ their respective boards to reflect the communities in which they serve, and simultaneously make millions each year, per school? Nah..that’s too much like right. Instead, these Ivy League colleagues continue to groom their friends to develop spin-off companies, in turn perpetuating the cycle. Basically, Education-for-profit is akin to the ‘old boys’ network’ still prevalent here in the South. We look out for our own. Unfortunately, when African Americans adopt this same type of attitude, we get branded as separatists or segregationists. Some yahoos even start yelling about reverse discrimination! How in the hell can you have reverse discrimination when African Americans are usually the only ones who acknowledge its existence? Even then, there are ‘those’ (AA) who will deny it, slavery, and anything else to appease the ‘right’ people in power, but that’s another blog entirely. For those who are students and studiers (is that a word) of History, you know exactly what I mean.

As I said earlier, I am not a cheerleader for any person, organization, institution, etc. that perpetuates the obvious system of haves and have-nots, whether it be through employment, education, politics, etc. I will not temper my words to make anyone comfortable because no one is addressing the systemic racism and tracking that is rampant in public education to make sure my kids get a fair chance to make their own opportunities.

I did not intend to write this blog at 2 in the morning, but someone wanted me to explain my comments/feelings about KIPP. More importantly, I know that I would not have slept peacefully with these thoughts in my head. If I had more time, I would have easily added a historical component but alas, the best I can do is direct you to a wonderfully written blog interview with Ira David Socol. If he wasn’t a White guy, I would swear we were related because we think so much alike it’s dangerous…..for someone!

Peace! I’m going to sleep!

5 responses to “Let me set the record straight…

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  1. I wrote a quick response on my blog. Looking forward to chatting 🙂

    Samantha A. Murray
  2. [quote] If these companies were genuinely concerned about closing the achievement gap for all ‘disadvantaged’ students, their services would reach beyond the four walls of the school. Perhaps they could ‘color’ their respective boards to reflect the communities in which they serve, and simultaneously make millions each year, per school?[/quote]

    Education CEO –

    1) Speaking for myself – I am Independent both from any Educational company or Political party

    2) I notice that KIPP focuses on INTEGRATING the “Black” parents into their own child’s education. If you had to choose between the two (assuming that the public schools are ‘racially integrated’ in their administration but fail to ‘integrate’ the parents) – Which of these two points are more important to focus upon? I am not tying to minimize diversity in the administration but the converse has not proven to eliminate the problem

    3) In my observations of the DC Schools – in the question of Michele Rhee – it appears that the SCHOOL ESTABLISHMENT is the bigger problem in their reluctance to change than anything that can be pegged on Ms Rhee’s leadership style.

    It seems that some people care more about being “offended” and thus need to be “stroked” than they are able to step back and make note of the fact that their aggregate actions within the system has produced an inferior product, to the detriment of the children.

    I am not saying that the schools are exclusively at fault. Clearly the ADULTS, in aggregate and whatever capacity they server (parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders) ARE at fault in failing to effectively manage the academic careers of these young people.

  3. I think what you are attacking and the reality of TFA are two different things right now.

    You say: I take issue with the perpetuation of this myth that minorities are not qualified enough to educate minority children. I agree…but from your post, I can’t make the leap to TFA. I would be interested (really!) in hearing more about how you made that connection.

    I’m a CM and I’m Latino. My Program Director is Black. Two of my TFA co-teachers at my school are black. At my training, I taught with another Hispanic, a Pakistani, and an African American. One of the heads of TFA Greater New Orleans is Black. Is the group as diverse as we would like it to be? Nope..but I don’t think that is for lack of trying.
    The group has stepped up efforts to increase diversity (racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, geographic, etc). 3 years ago, when I first heard of TFA at Ohio State, I was perhaps the only ambiguously ethnic guy in their crosshairs. When I went back to speak to a group of recruits last October, the room was more than half ethnic students. Progress.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert in anything education related, and even though I haven’t been doing this long, I’ve already developed an distaste for Kool Aid (I’ve ripped TFA on my own blog a few times). There are dozens of very strong critiques of the organization…but framing opposition to the group using strictly a racial and anti-elite lenses, in my opinion, is one of the weaker ones.

    • Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate people who can share their opinions in a professional manner. Did you have a chance to read the Ira Socol link? He goes into much more detail but I was asked by several people about my opinion and did not want to prolong a response by gathering a great deal of historical context. In all honesty, you made my point for me when you said that when you started, you were the only obvious ethnic minority. It’s not as though TFA is still a ‘new’ program, so why was that the case at the orientation you attended? Let’s go a step further: Can you imagine what leadership looks like at the corporate office? I am curious as to the number of HBCUs TFA visits to recruit teachers. One would think that if true diversity is part of their agenda, they would invest a portion of the millions they receive to improve their recruiting efforts.

      Thanks again for responding!

  4. TFA may be 20 years old, but it has become a large program only recently. There are about 4,100 incoming corps members in 2009. In 2006, when I first became interested in TFA, there were 2,500. In 2000, there were 900, and barely had a presence at several of our nation’s important schools.

    Ohio State is the largest undergrad university in the US (60,000+), and is hardly an academic slouch, but TFA didn’t really start to recruit *heavily* until last year. They didn’t really know who the important people on campus were to help spread there message. After a few years, they developed better relationships with groups like the Minority Affairs office, or African-American Greek groups. For OSU anyway, it was a matter of logistics.

    TFA didn’t venture far from the Ivies/Stanford/Dukes of the world until the late 1990s. This year, I think Wisconsin and Michigan sent the most CMs. I know for a fact that TFA has been recruiting at Howard and Spelman, and prob others as well. I would imagine that as we get more minorities (of all kinds) into the corps as teachers, we’ll see more of them in TFA’s NYC office, and other regional offices.

    Perhaps the biggest question is “why are there not more people of color at places like Yale?” That has more to do with what TFA is *trying* to fix (how our public school system disproportionately disadvantages people of color and the poor) than TFA itself.

    As for Mr.Socal, I found myself mostly unimpressed with what he was saying, and the whole debunkTFA website. The people at PublicSchoolInsights and ThisWeekInEducation have done a better job producing more credible critiques, in my opinion, of TFA. I think the lack of support for CMs, and the short window they are expected to serve in the classroom are significant problems personally.

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