Teach for America Left Me

Before I graduated from college I became committed to the idea that I would never write a blog post about an organization after I left it. If it was my choice, I didn’t need to make it worse by writing about it. If it wasn’t my choice, I wouldn’t want to throw the organization under the bus. But at the time I oriented myself this way, I believed this value was at the very bottom of the list of values I might have to exercise in my lifetime.

Then I was in a car crash.

A couple of months ago, I thought my life would go back to normal after I was healed. I knew, for medical reasons, I needed to stay in Ohio so I put in a request for a transfer to Teach for America’s southwest Ohio region.

The Detroit region put my transfer through, but I still haven’t heard from the southwest Ohio region.

I have been passionate about Teach for America since my junior year of college. I have defended it and supported it a countless number of times. What this experience has taught me is that I think I was at first passionate about TFA because I have always and will always be passionate about education. So since TFA has put a roadblock in my way, I have to go around it.

I am going to the University of Dayton to get my license and masters in secondary integrated language arts.

I wasn’t going to publish this blog post. I thought it was going to sit on my computer until the end of time, but yesterday TFA reached out to me about helping them with recruiting. The person who sent the email told me she just emailed everyone on TFA’s corps member list. I haven’t heard from TFA in three months and have no idea what I am “officially” to TFA.

All of that being said, I want it to be known that I am not leaving TFA; TFA is leaving me.

Why Dualism Just Makes Sense

I’ve been reading The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy. It is a collection of essays from philosophy scholars about the Harry Potter series. There’s an essay by Scott Sehon called “The Soul in Harry Potter.” It attempts to figure out which philosophical theory about the soul is happening in the books.

Because souls seem to exist outside the body in the series (ghosts, horcruxes, etc.), Sehon concludes that materialism is not the correct philosophical theory in the series. I definitely agree with this conclusion, but not in just the series but in real life.

One of my greatest fears as a tbi survivor is whether, once I’m completely recovered, I will be everything I was before the accident. Time and time again, I prove to myself that I don’t have anything to worry about. I am the same person. Since my brain was injured, you would expect that I would be different if you are a materialist.

I know that all tbi’s are different, and doctors warned me that I might have personality changes. So that kinda throws an obstacle into dualism. I’m alright with conceding that personality is based on physical things (the brain of course). But is a personality all there is to a soul? I don’t think so. My personality is all the same, but I know I shouldn’t universalize my experience with a tbi to all other tbi-survivors.

You would never say that two people who have the same passions have the same personalities. You could, of course, but it wouldn’t always be true.

Dualism, then, is the way to go.

#EdDefeat

I am not meant to be an ideologue. I make a poor leader, too, I think. Criticism gets to me. It sits in my pores and hangs on my shoulders, and people around me notice. I am plagued with the ability to see the reason in even the most ignorant of arguments. And the worst part is that most arguments aren’t ignorant. Most arguments are made by reasonable, intelligent people.

It’s not that I don’t think my arguments aren’t valid. I know they are. I know they are important. But I am one kid. I am 21-years-old. Most of the issues I think are important, I’ve only been thinking about for five years tops. And for the first two or three years of that, I thought Atlas Shrugged was the fifth Gospel. So, obviously, I’ve been misguided before.

I tend to ignore absolutes. If someone says they are “for charter schools,” I usually take that to mean that they have seen charter schools do good things, not that they think that charter schools are good 100% of the time. The latter would be an indefensible position.

There is too much truth in both sides of any argument that we should never completely write-off an opposing side.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been dragged firmly into the ed reform debate. Not the childish one that goes on at most college campuses where people honestly don’t know that there is an achievement gap, but the real one. The one where people have opposing ideas about how to close that gap.

Mostly this has made me want to tear my hair out. I’m not a debater. It’s not in my blood.

Because here’s the thing: both sides have legitimate truths. The typical TFA/SFER/DFER/Students First angle is that advocating for student and parent choice is the quickest way of ensuring that a lot of students (much more than are being served now) can receive excellent educations. The typical Ravitch/teacher union/anti-reform angle is that choice isn’t the best way long-term of ensuring an equal education for all. Both of these ideas are probably right. Charter schools aren’t going to solve the problems of classism and racism in this country unless we pair them with intense laws concerning integration and maybe also outlaw private schools altogether. And if we are going to go the charter route, we should probably also start thinking seriously about if we want for-profit schools. Admittedly, that does sound a little scary.

The design of neighborhood schools, though, is probably outdated. The middle class isn’t staying in one place anymore. The lower class is stuck in cities and rural areas. So while the middle class can move to good school districts and make choice that way, the lower class doesn’t have that benefit. In Ohio, the way we fund schools has been ruled unconstitutional on several separate occasions. Funding by income tax DOES NOT provide an equal education for everyone.

I would love to see a completely socialized education system that works in the US. But that’s probably a long ways from happening. We don’t like socialism in this country for various reasons. And even if we got rid of charters and parochial schools, we would still have to deal with the fact that our upper class parents were sending their children to private schools.

Mostly, I feel defeated. I feel like I’m up against a rock and a hard place. I’m not a politician or a millionaire. I can’t walk into my Statehouse and say, “Hey, instead of worrying about charter schools today, let’s start thinking up ways that we can free teachers and administrators in traditional public schools to replicate some of the things that have made some charters so successful.”

I feel defeated because I know that there are bad teachers, and I know there needs to be an objective way to identify them, but I also know that standardized testing is problematic.

I feel defeated because I suspect that there are many Republicans who support ed reform because it might mean union busting, and I don’t want union busting.

I feel defeated because while we argue about what’s the best way to fix the education system, even more students drop out, get a bad education, and are incarcerated.