Teach First, Teach for America and Toynbee Hall

by Harry on September 8, 2008

There’s an ongoing low-level argument in our house about Teach for America, which may reflect our own dispositions more than any actual disagreement. My spouse doesn’t like it much, because it promotes the idea that teaching is something clever people can do just because they are clever, and she doubts that the students who do it are very good in the classroom (she has some experience of non-standard routes into the classroom, having, herself, entered LAUSD as an emergency credential teacher straight out of college, the year before TfA began). I agree with all that, of course, and the students of mine who have done it give very mixed reports back to me. But taking into account the fact that the classrooms the TfAers occupy would mostly be occupied by similarly under-qualified teachers, most of whom will leave within a couple of years and some of whom within a couple of weeks, and having seen on campus the way that TfA has harnessed (and, it seems to me, contributed to) the idealism of high-performing students, I have a more positive take on it (the dispositional difference here is probably between viewing glasses as half-full or half-empty; though our dispositions are reversed when it comes to politics more generally). So when the TES asked me to profile a “thinker who has influenced education”, my wife suggested Wendy Kopp, and I thought it would be a way to work out my thoughts a bit more. It was a nice coincidence because Charles Windsor had just become the patron of Teach First, the UK organisation modeled on TfA.

Here’s what I wrote.

Most of the discussions about TfA I’ve been involved with focus on teacher recruitment, teacher quality, and teacher retention. What I wanted to suggest was that this is a mistake (not being original here — it’s what Kopp thinks, I’m just agreeing with her). I think my take on it influenced by my completely anecdotal observation about the difference between my parents generation and my own (I was born in 1963, they in 1940 and 1943) in Britain. Of course, my sample is biased, but among their acquaintances and most of my relatives in their generation I was very aware of a quite fierce public service ethic, which informed their career decisions as much as their voting behavior. In my own generation (I turned 16 a month after Thatcher took power) it seems much less prevalent; this seems to me to be a major loss, and one that affects the costs of providing, and the quality of, public services. I was close to finishing graduate school at USC when TfA based its first summer session there. One of my first impressions of USC undergraduates had been horror at how completely uninterested in even pretending to have any social conscience most of them seemed to be. So I was especially impressed when one student, having gotten excited about TfA, and had his application to that first cohort rejected, decided to go into teaching as a career anyway, something he had clearly not been thinking of beforehand. So TfA and Teach First should not be evaluated according to whether they produce better, longer-lasting, teachers than other mechanisms, but by whether they have the positive effects on the public service ethic of elite students. [1] It’s impossible to know for sure whether they are having that effect, but that’s what the aim should be.

After reading my piece on Kopp, Adam Swift pointed me to this piece in Prospect by Andrew Adonis about Teach First (behind a paywall, unfortunately, but brief and laudatory), and this criticism (bottom of the page, no paywall) from a reader (Trevor Fisher). Teach First is unlike TfA in that it was initiated by the government, has always had a firmer institutional base, and is dedicated to getting teachers into the classroom for a longer period of time, right from the start. But Fisher’s letter, like my article, suggests that recruitment, quality, and retention should only be a minor part of the aim, and evaluation, of Teach First. Fisher:

Any attempt to improve teacher recruitment is to be welcomed, but it is unclear whether recruiting from the dreaming spires will have a greater long-term impact than the Oxford student missions into the east end in the Edwardian period

Well, as Swift intimated to me, even Adonis wouldn’t claim that TF will have that much impact:

The impact of the Oxford student missions into the East End in the Edwardian period was absolutely huge. Beveridge, Attlee and Tawney all worked at Toynbee Hall (which is the one I know about because of the Balliol connection) and between them set up the welfare state.

Still, the comparison is suggestive and changes the terms of the debate. Like TfA, Teach First might want to start developing an effective long term alumnae network, and figure ways of harnessing the commitment of its recruits in the longer term, after they have left teaching, getting them into management and other sorts of support.

Again, here’s the piece, and please read it before accusing me of being a sell-out (you’re welcome to accuse me of that after reading it).

[1] Obviously, if their teachers were significantly worse than teachers who come in from other routes that would count strongly against them, but for TfA at least that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I believe that the evaluations actually show that Teach First teachers have a lower attrition rate than teachers who come in through other routes in the schools they teach in (which are high need, high attrition schools),



Rob Reich 09.08.08 at 4:58 pm

TFA is as selective in its admissions as the most elite universities in the US. It aspires to be the largest employer in the US of elite college graduates in the year after graduation, and it is very close to accomplishing this.

The social movement aspect of TFA is indeed overlooked. It’s connected to the second and often overlooked part of the TFA mission — to build a corps of elite college graduates committed over the course of their lifetimes to equal educational opportunity. How might this be measured? How many TFA’ers — whatever their professional destination after two years in the classroom — will say of public school teachers: ‘Why do they complain about their salaries so much. They have summers off?!” I wager that almost all TFA’ers would vote for a local school bond or statewide ballot initiative concerned with school funding.


noen 09.08.08 at 6:38 pm

Wikipedia page for Teach For America. You can get a hint at the underlying controversy by reading between the lines.

SourceWatch page for Teach For America.

Education is being destroyed by the Bushies (and others) in America. Teach For America is just a symptom of a larger problem. The real problem is that our owners want a dumbed down population. A militarized society needs it’s cannon fodder. An educated populace is a threat.


matt 09.08.08 at 7:01 pm

Before going back to grad (and law) school I was in the Peace Corps. When I came back people would ask me about it and I’d have to say that I wasn’t at all sure that what I’d done had made very much difference to anyone there but that it had made a very big difference to me and to nearly all of my colleagues. This seems in line with Harry’s (and Rob’s) point above and, assuming the point about TFA teachers not being significantly worse than the other options. My (fairly limited) expereince w/ TFA alumni indicates that this is so.


virgil xenophon 09.08.08 at 7:22 pm

noen has obviously contracted BDS. Else how could he ignore the fact that those who most strenuously oppose programs like Teach For America are the teachers unions, State Depts of Education, and the teachers training profession academics at the university level–all undisputedly HUGE Donkey party supporters.

Quit foaming at the mouth, noen.


noen 09.08.08 at 7:50 pm

That’s “she” Virgil, not “he”. Anyway, I do think TFA is probably a good program. It’s just that it points to the larger issues about education in America. Apparently we can no longer afford to hire real teachers any more. That’s a problem.

The reason we can’t afford teachers any more is the same reason highway funds are collapsing. The rich don’t want to pay for them any more. We’re on our own.


virgil xenophon 09.08.08 at 9:17 pm


I must admit upfront that I come from a privileged background (scholastically speaking) as I grew up on a college campus–a state university that began it’s life as a teachers college– went to the Lab school and was the son of a professor and an elementary school teacher. I strongly support teach for America and like programs. However the main obstacle to the success of such programs is the union card mentality of the teachers unions, State Boards of Education and the education professoriat at the university level.

As you noted about the controversy “hinted at” in wiki, a large part of the problem is the credential wars that insist taking largely worthless “methods” courses in order to be permanently certified. Thus we see the asinine mentality that holds that the Nobel-prize winning mathematics professor that parents would commit mass murder for in order to see him teach their child as an 18 yr-old college freshman in Sept, be deemed by the “education” establishment to be totally and legally incompetent to teach the same 18 yr-old H.S. math in April of that same calendar year. By that logic should not the entire faculty of every dept. in every university in the land be required to take such “methods” coursed and be certified in order ton instruct at the university level? I once pointedly asked the head of the Education Dept at a faculty symposium to turn to the Head of the Chemistry Dept. sitting next to him and kindly explain why he, although a Dept. Head, was deemed incompetent by the standards of the Universities own Dept. of Education, to teach at the H.S. level….Much stuttering. Unless and until this attitude changes dramatically, such programs as are championed here are going to have a long, hard, slog.


christian h. 09.08.08 at 10:29 pm

You might want to check out Bob Somerby at the Daily Howler – he had several posts sharply critical of TfA some time back, after Kopp was interviewed in typically sycophantic fashion on PBS.

In that PBS interview, Kopp clearly seemed to push the standard ‘lazy liberal’ line on education (“if only the teachers/ principals/ administrators are sufficiently enthusiastic, then the problems in education will be solved”) – not very impressive.

I do agree that the very existence of a program that promotes the idea that teaching is a suitable career choice for highly educted young people may have a positive effect, though.


Witt 09.08.08 at 10:38 pm

I don’t really disagree with any of the points in your article, but it’s rather disheartening. Certainly it’s true that my own university did absolutely nothing to harness my energy for nonprofit work; the career services office was monumentally unhelpful and I found my way on my own. And certainly it’s true that redirecting a few folks from immediate trajectories into consulting jobs or Wall Street may help to create better-informed taxpayers, parents, school board members, and citizens of the future. So in that sense, TFA is providing a useful conduit.

But as somebody who spends a fair bit of time in an high-poverty, violent urban public high school, it seems intensely shameful to me that self improvement for privileged college grads is a legitimate outcome of a 20-year nonprofit effort. As you put it:

Over the past 20 years, commitment to traditional left-wing ideas about achieving social justice has declined dramatically, to be replaced by the “we can fix it” volunteering that TfA promotes.

Helping youth for a few years is service. Changing the system that leaves those youth trapped in unsafe, chaotic environments is social justice. Justice makes people uncomfortable, because the immediate assumption is that a new set of winners will require a new set of losers.

The idea that all youth deserve a high-quality education is a radical one and in many circles an unpopular one. I base that on the vehemence and the bitterness I see in three areas:
– School officials putting tremendous effort into preventing students from enrolling (based on the assumption that the student’s needs will cost them money and/or the family does not legally reside in the district)
– Taxpayers’ reaction to the idea of combining school districts and/or altering the property-tax structure that controls the funding of schools
– Philanthropists’ recoil at the thought of challenging the status quo (as opposed to something innocuous like buying musical instruments or computers).

More money will not fix the problems of high-poverty, high-violence schools. No single solution will do it. But I am uncomfortable with lauding a program like Teach for America without also acknowledging that as their recruits diligently clean wounds and apply bandages, the patient continues to lie on a gurney in a crowded, dirty hallway and wait for the gunshot wound to be treated.


Harry 09.08.08 at 11:42 pm

Witt, well I suppose that captures the domestic argument I am always embroiled in. Of course, self-improvement for the privileged is no part of a justification of a program. And I agree about the difference between service and social justice. The point of the Toynbee Hall comparison is exactly that: Oxford graduates undertook (very valuable) service, became committed to a vision of social justice and, in the case of the 3 named people, basically instituted it (40 years on).

Of course, they could do that because they were acting in the context of major social movements, a low-level class war, and had a political party in which to organise with others. So I am less optimistic about TfA (and TF). But it is not the fault of TfAers that there is no political party in the US that could be the vehicle for instituting social justice, and the hope has to be that they will work closely with others to do the much more modest social reforms that look feasible here in the medium term (two former TfAers are central advisors to Obama on education, eg — I doubt that McCain has an education advisor having looked at his education platform). I agree that the post is dispiriting; but that’s because the political environment is dispiriting!

I’m not sure that my post (or the linked article) lauds TfA


Witt 09.09.08 at 12:01 am

But it is not the fault of TfAers that there is no political party in the US that could be the vehicle for instituting social justice

Well, this is perhaps where we differ. Political parties come into existence because of human activity. And I am absolutely willing to to lay some responsibility for lack of political action at the feet of elite, expensively-educated individuals who have substantially more social capital — and social ties to financial capital — than most other Americans.

That said, I was not so much thinking of your piece as others when I said people were lauding TFA, and I apologize that it sounded like I was.


Harry 09.09.08 at 12:22 am

Come on Witt, the TfAers are 22. Their parents, sure, bear a lot of responsibility, but not them! (I say that as someone who started being politically active in a serious way at 15 — but even in those more auspicious circumstances that was quite unusual).


Witt 09.09.08 at 12:27 am

Well, I don’t want to drag your thread too off-topic, so I’ll leave it at cheerful disagreement on that point.


Yuullii 09.09.08 at 1:58 am

Interesting how much attention has been paid to TfA, when there are so many similar programs these days: Peace Corps Fellows, Troops to Teachers, and the many alternative certification programs (too many to count in Texas).

I’m a Peace Corps Teaching Fellow. After I completed PC service I entered a teacher certification program and became a teacher ( in my case, elementary bilingual ed. in a colonia school on the border in Texas). We didn’t have any TfA , but there were several PC Fellows who began at the same time I did, as well as many people pursuing alternative teaching certification in other programs.

Twelve years later, I’m the only Peace Corps Fellow left. The others have gotten jobs in related fields or in other (union) states. The other alternative certification teachers are still here, though, teaching and/or assuming leadership roles in our district, in the classroom, in TSTA (What passes for a union in Texas), and in administration.

So, why is TfA the only alternative teacher certification program ever discussed? Is there any scientific comparison between the effectiveness and teacher retention of “elite” programs like TfA and Peace Corps Fellows, and graduates of other alternative certification programs? Do you have to go to an Ivy League school or be a Peace Corps volunteer to have a sense of obligation to public service?


Dan S. 09.09.08 at 3:49 am

. Thus we see the asinine mentality that holds that the Nobel-prize winning mathematics professor that parents would commit mass murder for in order to see him teach their child as an 18 yr-old college freshman in Sept, be deemed by the “education” establishment to be totally and legally incompetent to teach the same 18 yr-old H.S. math in April of that same calendar year.

It’s a bit like the bit about how that same [U.S.] college kid would be legally barred from purchasing alcohol at the age of 20 years and 364 days – but just one day later . . .

Although really, not so much, even. Granted, any teacher hired to teach just h.s. seniors and only ever h.s seniors has a twice selected group: at this point some of those least able/willing to continue their education have already left (or close enough to it), and since a 4th year of math is often optional, they’re going to get unusually motivated students. (Of course, on the other hand, maybe they’re getting remedial classes with kids who’ve failed freshman math the last three years . . . .)

Of course, these two things are even more magnified on the college level. Compared to the general population (and depending where, possibly to the general college population), the students are mostly-to-completely unusually high achievers, and are presumably above average in terms of cognitive skill, self-regulation, sociocultural competence, etc (at least in the ways rewarded by formal ed, if college was a realistic option for them). They also usually have strong intrinsic and/or extrinsic motivation to do well. (After all, college isn’t legally required). There are going to be exceptions of course, more or less of them depending on the institution, but they’re just that – exceptions.

In high school as a whole (as opposed to just some specific BC Calc AP classes or whatever serving a wildly unrepresentative elite), these two things are basically reversed. You’re dealing with a population that ranges from 9th to 12grade; many of them legally compelled to attend (everyone under 16, 17, or 18 depending on the state; many older students are required to attend by parents) and who are going to be all over the map in terms of achievement, motivation, behavior, maturity, etc.

Of course, it’s no secret that there are college profs who are unquestionably skilled in their fields and lackluster at best in the classroom (at an extreme, markedly socially inept, etc.) – cases where the most intelligent and motivated students may benefit, but everybody else is floundering around trying to figure out what on earth the prof is talking/muttering tonelessly into their beard about. It doesn’t help that teaching itself apparently (from outside) seems to have been just something you do, rather than a skill you learned – but perhaps I’m wrong about that? But you can get by with this at the college level, because you’re dealing with, well, young adults who were able to go off to college. (And of course, there are excellent and incredibly engaging college profs, and everything in between, in all kinds of combinations.)

In high school, middle school, elementary school – well, content knowledge and ability are important, but a whole host of other things become increasingly vital – many of which are rather squishy social skills.

Would you hire Wittgenstein as an elementary school math teacher?


praisegod barebones 09.09.08 at 5:23 am

‘By that logic should not the entire faculty of every dept. in every university in the land be required to take such “methods” coursed and be certified in order ton instruct at the university level’

Not sure about ‘by that logic’; but I think that there’s a case for saying they should be (and in Britain, I think, increasingly they are).

It’s somewhat o/t, but I’d be interested to hear what Harry thinks about that…(if he has any views on it whatsoever).


agm 09.09.08 at 6:33 am

Can’t say about TF, not on that side of the water, but TFA has a huge problem in that it tosses mentally and emotionally unprepared people to the sharks so often. New cohorts ground into the dust when it sinks in what they will witness and deal with. When I was dating one, I already knew what her students’ lives could be like because of where I grew up. In contrast, she was horrified, as are many TfAers, by what they must contend with, and that I could understand at all how people might live in those circumstances. I’m teaching in a community college, which isn’t really any distance removed from the same socioeconomic stratum, and I am prepared to handle it better than your typical person starting time with TFA.

Now, the social mission, especially for someone with a natural bent for educating, is awfully tempting, so I considered it once. Then I realized that it would be profoundly stupid for someone of my background to do so. Frankly, nobody benefits from crucifying themselves the way TFA requires, and I can do an alternative certification program if I really feel the need to teach in a high school.


bemused 09.09.08 at 7:32 am

My child “teaches for America”. She just began her second year in the classroom. In NYC TFA gives quite a bit less support than other alternative credentialing programs, and her first year was a nightmare experience for her, improving enough by the end that she decided to stay for the second year. She intended (and intends to) make teaching a career, but I don’t believe TFA does enough to prepare its corps members. I also think the reason you hear about them more than other alt credentialing programs is a big investment in PR and suppressing negative experiences. There are many dropouts.


Barry 09.09.08 at 4:50 pm

virgil xenophon 09.08.08 at 9:17 pm
” Thus we see the asinine mentality that holds that the Nobel-prize winning mathematics professor that parents would commit mass murder for in order to see him teach their child as an 18 yr-old college freshman in Sept, be deemed by the “education” establishment to be totally and legally incompetent to teach the same 18 yr-old H.S. math in April of that same calendar year. ”

Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobel_prize#Lack_of_a_Nobel_Prize_in_Mathematics

Even for a Fields Medal, there are very, very few places where such a professor will teach Joe/Joesephine Random Freshperson (as opposed to Joe/Joesephine Who’s Worked on Graduate Math in High School).


virgil xenophon 09.09.08 at 9:56 pm

The point I was trying to make is that there are many “non-traditional” (i.e., non-education majors) types with great expertise (often retired) that eschew teaching at the H.S./Jr High level that otherwise would love to because of the laborious nonsensical methods course requirements needed to become certified to teach. My H.S. Physics professor, for example, had been an instructor in electronics in the Navy for almost 30 yrs. (He also taught us morse code and headed our ham radio club, QSL: WYHA [Young Happy Amateur). Lots of people like him don’t want to put up with the useless credentialing requirements.


Barry 09.10.08 at 3:08 pm

Well then, you might try making it with a far better example, like the one in your personal experience, rather than a strawman.


virgil xenophon 09.10.08 at 11:35 pm

Barry, no straw man at all. There is not a single full or assist. professor at any institution in the land that, should he choose to do so, would be allowed to teach at the H.S. level without completing the requisite coursework and becoming certified by the State Board of Education. If that’s not union card mentality I don’t know what is–and hardly a straw-man argument, as it is totally congruent with “the facts on the ground,” i.e., reality.


Barry 09.10.08 at 11:51 pm

And reality is that it’s an ‘asinine mentality that holds’ that a college math professor is competent to teach at the high school level, much less junior high or elementary school. I’ve got a math BS (with ~60 grad hours in statistics and related fields), and I’d far rather teach freshmen in college than high school students. I’d be much less incompetent at the former than the latter, and me teaching junior high students would just be a recipe for disaster.


virgil xenophon 09.11.08 at 10:41 am

barry: Look, granted the further down the grade level one goes, the more pedagogy looms ever more important than depth of knowledge
in the major field; however I remain unrepentant in my belief that, while I have no doubt that many feel as you about teaching at lower grade levels, (me included!) there are a significant number who for any number of reasons would not. Pay and prestige are not everything. Living in New Orleans as I do where pay scales across the board are low, I know of many people who have turned down better and higher paying jobs in other cities to remain in New Orleans. So strong is love of place here that N.O. has a higher percentage of homegrown inhabitants than any other city in America. Wives can also exercise veto power on moves also which can induce people to accept “lesser” jobs. My Father was a Hall of Fame college tennis and basketball coach who turned down many “better” job offers to leave the university where he coached for thirty years (1945-75) simply because my Mother didn’t want to leave her home town. Had he not gotten the position he did right out of the Army after the war he probably would have coached at the H.S. level in town instead just to please her.

My only point in all of this is to ask that, even if the numbers are small, why should roadblocks be put in the way of ANYBODY with
the requisite depth of knowledge–especially as the shortages/needs in secondary education (in the sciences in particular) are so desperate?


Dan S. 09.11.08 at 10:03 pm

why should roadblocks be put in the way of ANYBODY with
the requisite depth of knowledge

But what is “the requisite depth of knowledge”? You’re defining it merely as expertise in the particular subject/s being taught. But of course, teaching involves much more than that. It also involves expertise (or at least basic competence) in the craft – one might say the methods – of successfully sharing that expertise. (episteme vs. techne?) With secondary and elementary ed., one needs to be very good at classroom management, finding ways to engage students, working at a developmentally appropriate level, accommodating a wide range of interest and ability, etc. You’re working with young people, and dealing with a whole different range of academic, social, and emotional issues (to a greater or lesser degree, you’re not just teaching them a subject, but helping them grow up). That’s the point Barry’s making – not that secondary teaching is lower in pay or prestige, but rather that it requires a different skill set.


virgil xenophon 09.11.08 at 11:50 pm

Dan S. If you perhaps had read me more carefully I alluded to the fact that secondary teaching requires a different skill set in my very first sentence in post #23. But at the upper bound of the secondary system it seems to me the mix in importance of “core” “knowledge” vs “method” shifts heavily to the “knowledge” end of the scale. No one is suggesting that PhD’s in Math, Physics, etc., teach third and fourth graders their multiplication tables, where being wise in the ways of the best methods of instruction is probably more important than deep knowledge–but I do not think it inappropriate to prefer “knowledge-centered” instructors over Education Majors (or even PhEds, which is the degree everyone opts for if they want to be called “Doctor” but don’t want the trouble of a Dissertation) at the higher grade levels. And at present the existing educational system not only makes it difficult for these people to teach, in many ways it is actively hostile to the entire concept.


Dan S. 09.12.08 at 3:20 am

I alluded to the fact that secondary teaching requires a different skill set in my very first sentence in post #23

Indeed, you did, although you clarify in #25 that “at the upper bound of the secondary system it seems to me the mix in importance of “core” “knowledge” vs “method” shifts heavily to the “knowledge” end of the scale. ” So, as I touched on back in #14, you’re taking an arguable marginal case – high school seniors – and leaping from that to accusations of an “asinine mentality” and “union card mentality”.

To repeat, it’s rare that any individual imbibing in honor of their 21st birthday has suddenly crossed some responsible-drinking rubicon. Likewise, it’s – well, saying that it’s rare that any individual has grown in maturity, preparedness, etc. in the year between the start of 12th grade and the next autumn isn’t always quite the same thing, but it still makes a point. It’s the same regrettable trade-off of any such uniform & mass system, where good sense thins out at the arbitrary edges. I’m not saying it’s absolutely ideal (case by case judgements are great, but then we’re talking a very different sort of system) , but “asinine mentality” etc. sounds like just more anti-teacher (and anti-union) verbiage.

At the same time, there are even more problems. Perhaps any specific freshman sitting in a college math class today might well have benefitted from the same instructor a year ago – but depending on where they were sitting a year ago, some, mant, or even most of their then-classmates may not be taking college-level math, may not have gone on to college, may not even have graduated high school (yet, or possibly ever). So it’s not just an issue of the prize-winning math prof. not being allowed to start teaching their students a few months earlier – we’re talking about sometimes significantly different (rather, specifically selected) populations, in a significantly different setting, with significantly different norms and expectations.

At the same time, we actually agree, to a point – I think well-done alternative certification programs are a rather good thing. And of course, rather than the hard slog predicted, alt cert programs have spread fairly rapidly. What I don’t think is a good idea is the surely unintended assumption that math profs (or research chemists, or LHC technicians, or etc.) are all by virtue of their education and experience totally qualified to teach some random (even 12th grade class), and that the only reason anyone would require some (however imperfect) formal preparation and quality control measures before tossing them into the classroom is that they have an asinine union card mentality. That doesn’t seem like a good idea for the teacher or the kids.


virgil xenophon 09.12.08 at 7:17 pm

Dan S:

As you say, are differences are probably not all that great. As the son of two teachers and with a teacher Aunt (my Mother taught for 26 yrs in the Illinois school system and her sister for 32 in Ill. & Calif.; my Father for 30yrs at the Univ. level in Illinois.) I am hardly “anti-teacher.” My mother was the first teacher in her school system to join the AFT, so I know a little bit about unions.

I also full well realize that part of the certification process is the response of State Boards of Education to inure themselves against potential charges by their political opponents of “irresponsibility” for foisting off “unqualified” teachers on an unsuspecting and trusting public. These are public officials, after all, and as Aristotle famously said: “Man is a political animal.” Still, all one has to do is spend ten minutes talking to education majors on any university/college campus in the land to hear them uniformly pronounce so-called “methods” courses as for the most part farcial and out dated–taught by instructors who haven’t been in a public school classroom in twenty years–so I’m not too sure that such “certification” requirements aren’t one of those things that sound good in theory but
are something else again in reality.

Finally, what I meant by “union card mentality” is that State Boards of Education use the certificate as the functional equivalent of the union card for turf protection purposes in the same way the legal profession has used law schools as a controlling function to instill the proper “attitude” in it’s prospective members. You do know, don’t you, that there was a time when one didn’t have to go to law school to be admitted to the bar? All one had to do was “read law” and then take the exam. If one passed, one was admitted–the proof was in the pudding. Some of our nations greatest jurists were admitted that way. Of course if the legal profession reverted to that procedure, what would all the law professors and law school administrators do for a living? One might say the same about the teaching profession……


virgil xenophon 09.12.08 at 7:25 pm

Dan S:

PS: Although I consider myself a “man of the right,” I was (and still am) always a great admirer of Albert Shanker.

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