September 24, 2013

"I Quit Teach for America"

From The Atlantic:
I Quit Teach for America 
Five weeks of training was not enough to prepare me for a room of 20 unruly elementary-schoolers. 
OLIVIA BLANCHARD

... The phrase closing the achievement gap is the cornerstone of TFA's general philosophy, public-relations messaging, and training sessions. As a member of the 2011 corps, I was told immediately and often that 1) the achievement gap is a pervasive example of inequality in America, and 2) it is our personal responsibility to close the achievement gap within our classrooms, which are microcosms of America's educational inequality. 
These are laudable goals. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, white fourth-graders performed better than their black peers on 2007 standardized mathematics exams in all 46 states where results were available. In 2004, there was a 23-point gap in mathematics scale scores between white and black 9-year-olds, with the gap growing to 26 points for 13-year-olds. 

You know, instead of trying to get blacks and Hispanics to score a full standard deviation higher while preventing whites and Asians from scoring higher, why not try to get everybody to score a half standard deviation higher? That's both more feasible and more equitable.
But between these two messages lies the unspoken logic that current, non-TFA teachers and schools are failing at the task of closing the achievement gap, through some combination of apathy or incompetence. Although TFA seminars and presentations never explicitly accuse educators of either, the implication is strong within the program's very structure: recruit high-achieving college students, train them over the summer, and send them into America's lowest-performing schools to make things right. The subtext is clear: Only you can fix what others have screwed up. It was an implication I noticed when an e-mail I received during Institute, the five-week training program, referring to “a system of students who have simply not been taught.” The e-mail explained, “That’s really what the achievement gap is—for all of the external factors that may or may not add challenges to our students’ lives—mostly it is that they really and truly have not been taught and are therefore years behind where they need to be.” 
I later asked a TFA spokesperson if this e-mail reflects the organization’s official views on traditionally trained teachers. He denied that TFA believes “the shortcomings of public education” to be “the fault of teachers. If anything,” he added, “teachers are victims of more-structural problems: inequitable funding; inadequate systems of training and supporting teachers; the absence of strong school and district leadership.” Nonetheless, at the time, the dramatic indictment of America’s non-TFA teachers would stay with me as I headed into the scandal-ridden Atlanta Public Schools system. 
In the weeks between accepting the offer to join TFA and the start of our training, I was told by e-mail that “as a 2011 corps member and leader, you have a deep personal and collective responsibility to ground everything you do in your belief that the educational inequality that persists along socioeconomic and racial lines is both our nation’s most fundamental injustice and a solvable problem. This mindset,” I was reminded, “is at the core of our Teach For America—Metro Atlanta Community.” 
At the time, I appreciated TFA’s apparent confidence in me as a leader. I assumed that I would learn the concrete steps I needed to achieve this transformation during the training program. Instead I was immersed in a sea of jargon, buzzwords, and touchy-feely exercises. One memorable session began with directions for us to mentally “become” two of our students. After an elaborate, 32-slide reflection guide, we were asked to close the session with a “Vision Collage,” for which we were handed pre-scripted reflections. “One person will volunteer to read his/her line first. After one person reads aloud, another should jump in, so that one response immediately follows another—without any pauses.” At this stage in training, most of us were still struggling to grasp the basics of lesson planning. (According to TFA this exercise is not a part of the formal training program.) 
Typical instructional training included only the most basic framework; one guide to introducing new material told us to “emphasize key points, command student attention, actively involve students, and check for understanding.” We were told that “uncommon techniques” included “setting high academic expectations, structuring and delivering your lessons, engaging students in your lessons, communicating high behavioral expectations, and building character and trust.” 
Specific tips included “you provide the answer; the student repeats the answer”; “ask students to make an exact replica in their notes of what you write on the board”; and “respond quickly to misunderstandings.” After observing and teaching alongside non-TFA teachers at my placement school, I can confidently say that these approaches are not “uncommon.”

Teach for America has an interesting ideology:

- With students, nurture matters more than nature
- With teachers, nature matters more than nurture

TfA selects only about 11% of its applicants, and it primarily wants college grads who got into elite colleges, earned high grades, and demonstrated strong leadership skills and perseverance. In other words, pre-Harvard Business School types. Then it gives them a ridiculously short five weeks of training, and off they go for two years. But that's okay because they are innately better than the kind of people who become normal teachers. 

And, yes, probably they are. But they can't be allowed to suspect that some students are better than other students.

89 comments:

dearieme said...

"strong leadership skills": wouldn't it be better to be frank and say F├╝hrerprinzip?

Camlost said...

If anything,” he added, “teachers are victims of more-structural problems: inequitable funding; inadequate systems of training and supporting teachers; the absence of strong school and district leadership.”

More complete crap and lies. It's funny that this story is about a TFA candidate in Atlanta, since Atlanta's majority black urban schools are NOT crumbling like the ghetto schools you see in Newark or Philadelphia.

Here's a photo of the brand-new, gleaming Southside High School, which costed several hundred million dollars:

http://www.travispruitt.com/Images/Portfolio/JacksonHS-345.jpg

It's brimming over with new computers and advanced networking equipment.

Atlanta public schools is something like 85% black, but the schools are generally VERY well funded and certainly better equipped than majority white schools in the rural areas of the state.

But test scores are still rock bottom for black students in the Atlanta public school system, though.

carol said...

'In a top-down, ruthless bureaucracy like APS, teachers are front-line foot soldiers,'


heh, exactly. which is why theie unions are so tough...combat pay.

Bostonian said...

I am going to introduce my children to books like the Bell Curve so that they have at least heard the other side of the "achievement gap" argument before they enter college.

Orthodox said...

Another case of callous altruism. I don't know what the answer to the education problems are, but the biggest issue is discipline. That needs to be tackled at the source: reduce single mothers. As for the classrooms, I've always believed former drill instructors would be superior to sheltered college grads.

Shouting Thomas said...

That Blackboard Jungle romantic fantasy never dies!

Leonard said...

why not try to get everybody to score a half standard deviation higher? That's both more feasible and more equitable.

It is probably more feasible. But it is most certainly not equitable, at least not the kind of equality that progs care about. And that is the problem.

Anonymous said...

In other words, pre-Harvard Business School types. Then it gives them a ridiculously short five weeks of training, and off they go for two years. But that's okay because they are innately better than the kind of people who become normal teachers.



Basically, the program is looking for elite teachers willing to go to what used to be known as "high risk" areas and spend two years teaching there.

A question going unanswered is: why should they? What's in it for them? What incentive is used? If they agree to teach for two years at schools located in Compton or Harlem, can they expect to be automatically whisked away to an elite magnet or charter school once their two yr sentence, er...mission is completed?


You once made mention regarding elite trainers in other fields and used golf coaches as an example. Elite golf coaches would never go to public links, pick out random shlubs, and decide to coach them,

But in academia, those at the top decide what those at the bottom ought to do and some are gullible and foolish enough to buy into their "vision" for the latest panacea of bringing test scores up for the special protected ones.

JayMan said...

I left a comment to that article (see here), explaining to the noble masses what was really going on, citing my Fundamentals page, Education Realist, M.G. and Nelson (interestingly, all women or people of color talking about HBD; I wonder if they process this). I think I will throw in Greg Cochran for good measure as well. Readers may want to visit there and vote up the comment, to make it more visible. (No login or Disqus account needed ;) )

rightsaidfred said...

Note well that TFA goes for the young and idealistic.

I think it would be better to draft high achieving 50 years olds: a lifetime of achievement and experience. They could really whip the underachieving elementary school kids into shape with their vast experience and well honed knowledge of human relationships.

"Don't send a boy to do a man's job."

Svend Svenderson said...

Education is becoming a cult in this country.

panjoomby said...

they never seem to understand that the IQ of the student is far more important than the IQ of the teacher.

Anonymous said...

There was an article like this on The Onion several years ago.

Matthew said...

If anything,” he added, “teachers are victims of more-structural problems: inequitable funding; inadequate systems of training and supporting teachers; the absence of strong school and district leadership.”

The District of Columbia, with a majority black student population, spends nearly three times as much per student as the state of Utah, with a ~75-80% white student population. White students in Utah still perform dramatically better than black students in D.C. They do dramatically better on the first standardized test question, "What is your father's name?"

DJF said...

“”””Five weeks of training””

When I was in the Navy they managed to turn the average sailor into a instructor in four weeks, though admittedly the students they taught were better disciplined and the students knew that much of the subject matter being taught was going to be immediately used by them.

But on the other hand they were average sailors, not Ivey League stars who would soon rule over the USA and they hoped the world as the best and the brightist.

MLK said...

It seems to me what is most salient for this discussion, and missing, is the racial and ethnic breakdown among TfA teachers? Do you happen to know it?

What especially interests me is that demographic data in comparison to the overall data for the teachers being replaced by this program.

Chicago said...

Met some TFA participants some years ago and they were all receiving Food Stamps. Their income was low enough, and the program had some special dispensations for counting TFA income so as to help qualify them and thus throw in a little bonus for them. They split housing cost by having roommates. How they were eventually going to be able pay off their student debt wasn't clear. They all had 'Iowa" written all over them, kids from places where they had little real contact with minorities and thus were taken in by all the wonderful sounding rhetoric. Reality seemed to be wearing them down however, and one could see they were getting closer to abandoning ship. One acquaintance's niece didn't make the cut. The main interview was all ideological and she apparently failed to sound PC enough even though she seemed to have good credentials.
TFA, just another in a long line of nice-sounding failures, a pied-piper leading starry-eyed youth off on some doomed children'e crusade.

Anonymous said...

"I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, but still somehow, it's cloud's illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds....at all."

I attended wholly integrated schools from grade through high school.

At no time did I see any evidence of disparity in intention or effort by teachers when educating children of different races. There was, however, difference in outcome, plainly obvious to all us uninhibited (unblinkered) children.

While in college, I augmented my degree with teacher certification. Preparing lesson plans for every day's class is real work. True that ed. classes are notoriously filled with mush yet there is some core of knowledge imparted. It is unrealistic to expect totally untrained--no matter how brilliant--fresh graduates to "instinctively" know how to teach. This plan is a recipe for failure.

Question: Who comes up with this stuff?

Answer: Someone who has never served in the trenches.

So, I've seen this issue from both sides now which is enough to know that the creators of this program see only illusions.

Mr. Anon said...

I think the idea behind "Teach for America" came from this previous education reform movement:

Teach for the Ottoman Empire

Anonymous said...

Treme Teach for America rap
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8t3YQe3CEU

Black Agenda Report on Teach for America scabs.

http://www.blackagendareport.com/search/node/teach%20for%20america

Anonymous said...

"- With students, nurture matters more than nature
- With teachers, nature matters more than nurture"

Dave, I've picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours.

Col. Reb Sez said...

I got to know a Teach for America teachers who came to Mississippi just as the program was starting. After a year he told me that most of the teachers from mostly white areas, i.e., Northerners, were leaving the program after only completing one year of their two-year contract.

He said the Southern teachers were doing much better and were staying with the program (in fact, many became full-time teachers). The Northerners thought conditions in the South were entirely due to Southern oppression and that exposure to a caring Northerner would solve all their problems. The Southern teachers understood the intractability of some of these problems and knew that any change would be an inch at a time.

Some of these Teach for America teachers in the first wave became terrible depressed. Some would vomit before going to school each day at the thought of what they were facing.

bjdubbs said...

I taught a class of 20 unruly kids with no training. Granted, they were Korean and well-behaved, but three weeks is plenty. Come on.

Anonymous said...

iSteve: "TfA selects only about 11% of its applicants, and it primarily wants college grads who got into elite colleges, earned high grades, and demonstrated strong leadership skills and perseverance."

In other words, the best and brightest.

Hmm. When you factor in the opportunity cost of sidetracking thousands of highly competent young people away from their natural careers in business or engineering or what-have-you, to go off and spend years on this wild goose chase...

...I wonder, what is the true cost to society of one of these TFA gigs? In a place like DC I bet they increase the true cost far beyond its already high $29K/student cash cost.

Anonymous said...

IQ Teach for America?

Ohhh, year, forgot the UIT.

tweedyprof said...

My daughter, Smith College Class of '11, joined TFA and is now starting her second year. She had a rather horrible first year, but long talks with her over this summer indicate that she hasn't bought into the ideology at all. She knows perfectly well that all students aren't the same, and may, for all I know and hope, be doing some good (in Windham, CT, near Hartford).

Education Realist said...

Or, as I say in Reverse Drinking Game (http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/the-reverse-drinking-game/):

ask yourself why so many people are willing to discuss the impact of teacher cognitive ability on academic achievement (you mostly have to squint to find any ) but never mention student cognitive ability.


I like what Parapundit said here (http://www.parapundit.com/archives/009218.html)

That article takes you as close to reality as The Atlantic is inclined to get. Which is to say, you'll be on a delusion ocean liner streaming along a few miles off the coast of reality with some of the features of the coast line pointed out. Not deeply lost at sea. But not at dock in a reality port town either.

Z said...

Steve, I think you are missing the bigger story. TFA sounds a lot like a cult or the Hitler Youth Movement. The people in charge clearly see something more than a resource problem. They are building an army of fanatics.

Anonymous said...

The comments at the Atlantic are pure SWPL. Take this one for example:

Many white parents won't even send their kids to a school if it is 20 or 30% black. That's not the same thing as "in the ghetto," but many whites are paranoid anyway.

Clearly that SWPL doesn't have kids. Most white parents I know would draw the line at 5 to 10 percent.

countenance said...

"Bad" schools and "bad" teachers might be far more a feature than a bug for low IQ students:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10328580/Weakest-pupils-suffer-crisis-of-confidence-in-top-schools.html

Sometimes, Superman is unneeded and in fact counterproductive.

countenance said...

But between these two messages lies the unspoken logic that current, non-TFA teachers and schools are failing at the task of closing the achievement gap, through some combination of apathy or incompetence.

That's not the goal of TFA. The goal of TFA is to replace well paid older married with children teachers whose health care expenses are higher with young, cheap, healthy, unmarried, no kids yet teachers, so that the districts can save money on employee pay and benefits. Except that won't result in real estate tax levy rates being decreased in earnest...oh no. Can't do that, it's for the children.

Whatever those districts are doing with that extra money, however they're spending it, and to whose benefit that money is being spent, that's the money trail that leads to the forces that's funding all this "Waiting for Superman" nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Is it me or is there a Komsomol-ish quality to TFA?

Loyal young Party members spreading the gospel of (Cultural) Marxism far and wide to the peasants.

Anonymous said...

I know a young woman who did TFA in Philadelphia. Just one impossible kid in the class can make teaching miserable. You can't do anything with that kid. There should be a way to get him out of the classroom and into a padded cell.

AlexT said...

This is hilarious. Surely they must know that nature matters at least as much as nurture. They see it every day. I refuse to believe that they never mention this fact to anyone. Somewhere they must have someone to talk to about this, or they would go crazy......wait....ahhhh, now leftist insanities and perversions finally make sense.....thank you Steve!

Anonymous said...

o/t again - Guardian

"Somali Americans are not a domestic threat"

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/24/kenya-attack-us-target-shabaab?commentpage=1

"After all, the Somali diaspora in the United States has demonstrated – for example, in Minneapolis and St Paul, where many of the foreign fighters come from – a strong determination towards integration into the American way of life via educational institutions, business and civic organizations."

elvisd said...

When I started teaching, I'd run into some TFA-ers. Their world was being rocked pretty hard by Mississippi. One of them stopped into a gas station in a black "sundown town" (no whites after sundown) and got attacked by a drunk with a tire tool. The ones who made it came from more generic state schools.

Dahlia said...

She spent the majority of the article discussing the fear teachers have and the culture of covering oneself that results.

I think this is bigger than the politics of race because this sounds exactly like the culture in medicine. The nurses in my family have been talking about this for awhile and how it has negatively impacted the care they give their patients (can't recall when I began to hear about it, may be the last 5-10 years?).
Recently it has taken an even more hoary turn for one of them: set up a system where the nurses can be blamed.
The new company created an impossible protocol that's not meant to be followed (it's impossible, just meant to be on the books). The nurse is forced to break protocol, but if anything bad happens, they can then blame the nurse for not following protocol! I thought it was neophyte quants, but my mom knew better, tried to pin them down and get them on record as to how to follow their protocol, and got a dance of evasiveness instead.

This is blamed on the litiginous and that makes sense, but then why is this exact same thing happening in the public schools where the parents have little recourse?

I can't help but think about the "Bitter Pill" and believe that this may be more about the elite guys protecting themselves. The politics surrounding these issues, which are very real and serious especially in the case of education, help them get away with it.

Anthony said...

Teach for America has an interesting ideology:

- With students, nurture matters more than nature
- With teachers, nature matters more than nurture


Not really. While they look for smarter teachers, they say they're looking for "more skilled" teachers - who've had the right sort of nurturing in college.

However, they are saying that teacher quality matters, which is a testable proposition. And the results are in: teacher quality doesn't make much difference.

Anonymous said...

The comments were more interesting than the article itself. Of course all efforts to "close the gap" are doomed to failure (the gap will disappear right around the time the black-white performance gap in the NBA, the NFL, the 100 meter dash and marathons all disappear) but it is interesting to see people project their wishful thinking and ideology on how to do the impossible. The magical thinking of the blank slaters and redistributionists is particularly hilarious. Just write every family a check for $70K/year and all of society's problems will disappear in an instant!

As for Steve's idea that we should try to raise EVERYONE's score half an SD, that's not going to happen either. Scores on standardized tests are mostly a function of IQ (which is fixed quite early - before most children are ever exposed to a school). Maybe half of it or more is fixed when the egg meets the sperm and the rest of it is determined in the home (and the home environment is in turn largely determined by parental IQ which is highly correlated with the child's). So you would have to intervene MUCH earlier and more deeply than most people are comfortable with to have any appreciable effect. If our government, due to the "privacy right" that is invisibly imbedded in the constitution, is now unable to intervene concerning matter of sodomy, abortion and other such things, they sure aren't going to be able to do anything about this.

Anonymous said...

o/t

Finns most honest when they find lost wallet. Impressive #2 for Mumbai and #3 for NY.



http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2430530/Helsinki-responds-best-Lisbon-worst-honest-city-test-plants-wallet-containing-30-family-photo-public-places.html

Anonymous said...

OLIVIA BLANCHARDSEP

Okay, WTF?

{Huguenot} X {Sephardic Jew}?

Anonymous said...

WTF?

Nope, looks like it was a bad Copy-n-Paste job:

Olivia Blanchard | Sep 23 2013, 7:03 AM ET

Baloo said...

Or, conversely, doublethink. Which is how I riff on it and link here:
http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2013/09/falsification-and-doublethink.html

Anonymous said...

The behavior of the students in these schools is atrocious, and then some. You can't explain the whole thing with race, IQ, and all of that jazz. Culture is important, too.

el supremo said...

The whole TFA enterprise reminds me of Khrushchev's Vrigin Lands Campaign, where thousands of enthusiastic Komsomol youth volunteers undertook the great socialist adventure of trying to turn the Kazakh steppe into an agricultural breadbasket.

Ideologically inspired youth failed to make much of an impression of unyielding terrain then, and I don't expect it to here either.

ricpic said...

How is it that the white kids, subjected to the same lousy teachers as the black kids, significantly outperform the black kids on standard achievement tests? Yeah, I know the instant answer is "white privilege," which is no answer at all.

Matthew said...

Finns most honest when they find lost wallet. Impressive #2 for Mumbai and #3 for NY.

I could pass or fail that test, depending on the circumstances. I once drove a few miles out of my way to return a lost wallet, ~$50 included. The man wasn't very grateful.

I also had a co-worker give me a wallet to return to a man, knowing I lived sorta near the address on his ID. Based on some of the info, though, I guessed that the owner was an illegal immigrant. I tossed the wallet into the trash, still containing ~$30 in cash.

In most Western countries a wallet with ~$50 of cash isn't a real test of honesty, though. Put $1,000 in there and then get back to me.

Dahlia said...

I love these anecdotes about these TFA teachers and how their views evolved.

I knew a regular Asian teacher, not TFA, who quit after three years. Like another commenter's teacher, this one was made vomitously sick by the conflict between what she believed about people and their aptitude and the reality. Mostly, that as hard as she worked, she was effecting very little change in her students.

Gringo said...

Steve makes an interesting point that while TFA believes that nurture trumps nature for students, nature trumps nurture for teachers for selecting TFA recruits. TFA would not accept someone with the profile of a normal Ed school student.


There is an interesting book written on TFA recruits: Relentless Pursuit: A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America. A very bright, energetic, outgoing, assertive person can succeed as a TFA recruit, as the book shows. Those who are not so bright, energetic, outgoing and assertive will not do as well. The school one is assigned to is also a factor.

Anonymous said...

Culture is important, too.

The interplay between the culture and the genetics is becoming really fascinating to me - as a sort of a meta-theoretical or epi-theoretical phenomenon - the Darwinian influence of the genes on the culture working hand over fist with the Lamarckian influence of the culture on the genes.

Really weird stuff, when you step back and try to see the forest for the trees.

Gringo said...

countenance
That's not the goal of TFA. The goal of TFA is to replace well paid older married with children teachers whose health care expenses are higher with young, cheap, healthy, unmarried, no kids yet teachers, so that the districts can save money on employee pay and benefits.

Not so. Over forty percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. TFA recruits are by and large replacing those teachers who quit in those first five years.

While some of those "well paid older....teachers" are leaving the profession well before the traditional retirement age of 65, the school districts are not pushing them out, due to tenure rules. They are leaving because of burnout- and because retirement rules permit them to collect a pension before ages 60-65.A common rule of thumb is that if one's age plus years of teaching equal 80, one may collect retirement pay- which means many teachers can retire at age 52.


While 60-something teachers were common in the schools I attended as a child, these days they are much harder to find. There are very few teachers aged 60 or more these days.

Anonymous said...

We should rechristen The Gap as The G.A.P. -- the General Aptitude Problem.

Dave Pinsen said...

TFA only makes sense as a prep-program for future elites, screening for intelligence, work-ethic, and ideological conformity. As a program to educate lower class kids, it doesn't make much sense.

Those kids would be better off with better trained, non-genius teachers. If the system requires genius/superman teachers, it's a stupid system -- the opposite of the US Navy, as Herman Wouk described it, "a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots".

Better to track kids, give them realistic goals based on their abilities, and hire well-trained, competent teachers to implement proven approaches.

Anon-e-mouse said...


Ever get the feeling that, instead of Teach For America, things would be a lot better all round if there was Bleach For America?

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think Barry Goldwater was on to something when he declared we should saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea.

It never ceases to amaze me how stuck-up, oblivious, arrogant, and stupid northeast elitists can be. They believe they have the power to change the entire world, and the only limit is their imagination. Anyone who believes otherwise, whether a Southerner, a white South African, a Burmese Buddhist, or a conservative Muslim, is obviously an ignorant revanchist destined for the dustbin of history.

Anonymous said...

This story falls into the category I call the resigned sigh of the reactionary ("it's their country now"). Dennis Mangan has covered the subject. To paraphrase his byline, what I gain from reading it and the subsequent comments is knowing that there are others who see the same things that I see.

Anonymous said...

Surely they must know that nature matters at least as much as nurture.

Where I work there are ducks in the ponds.

Recently they had lots of ducklings.

If their mothers did not stick around and protect them (the little bit that they do) while they are maturing, then no amount of nature would protect them from cats and so forth.

However, no amount of nurturing from their mothers will teach them to fly. That is all built into their genes. After millions of years of flying mammals and birds, it out to be built in.

Just as the IQ differences are nature, not nurture. If you do not have the genes for high IQ, then you are simply not going to be a rocket surgeon.

Anonymous said...

There are black sundown towns? How can I find out if there are any near me?

Gloria

Anonymous said...

This guy seems to believe that stuff as well:

Why I moved my startup to Oakland

Steve Sailer said...

"the opposite of the US Navy, as Herman Wouk described it, "a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots"."

That's a great line. Wouk is, I believe, still alive, closing in on 100. His Caine Mutiny Court Martial might be the best play for an all male high school to do when they want to do a non-musical using just their own students.

Anonymous said...

As one of the world's leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade. The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the eighth most traded currency in the world as of 2010.[28] Hong Kong was once described by Milton Friedman as the world's greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism, but has since instituted a regime of regulations including a minimum wage.[133]
This is what many libertarians and Conservatives want the US to looked like Hong Kong but Hong Kong doesn't have too much bad immirgation,

Cail Corishev said...

"You can't explain the whole thing with race, IQ, and all of that jazz."

Fortunately no one is saying you can. I spend a lot of time on HBD-aware blogs like this one, and I've never seen anyone claim that nurture is irrelevant and academic success is entirely set by genes. There may be people out on the fringe making that argument, but they're easily outnumbered by people anxiously beating down that straw man, so I don't think we have to worry much about their influence.

The HBD-aware argument is that these things are partly controlled by genes, which has implications for how to approach them for different kids.

On the other hand, you see the opposite argument all the time, whenever someone says, "You can be anything you want as long as you work hard enough." The official blank-slate position is that nature has zero effect on one's mental abilities and potential that can't be overcome by the right nurture.

Of course, they don't really believe that (who could?), which is proved by the existence of special education. If a kid has a 60 IQ, they accept that he's never going to learn algebra, and they treat and teach him differently according to his inherent abilities. But everyone else, from about 75 up to sooper-genius, is expected to spend the same number of hours sitting through the same classes (with some exceptions in the last few years with alternatives like AP classes) being taught with the same methods, and excel based on one's ambition and hard work. If one doesn't excel, it must be because he's lazy, or he has a learning disability (which can be fixed, restoring his blank-slate potential), or his home life sucks, or stereotype threat, or a dozen other reasons -- anything to avoid admitting that he might be wired too slow or too fast to respond well to their particular nurturing.

Anonymous said...

I am in the process of traditional teacher certification. TFA is not necessarily still composed of Ivy League grads....I know a lot of state school lib arts majors who got in last year. These were not people with high gpas, but I suppose they were good at articulating PC platitudes in the interview. And to those of you asking what is in it for them: a respectable job and steady income when most of their peers are struggling. The teaching market is actually pretty tough these days unless one is math or special Ed certified. I must admit, it's pretty frustrating to know that there are spots reserved for TFA when there are sometimes hundreds of applications per opening, even in the tough schools.

Bostonian said...

This TFA story from 2003 is harrowing:

http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_1_how_i_joined.html
How I Joined Teach for America—and Got Sued for $20 Million
by Joshua Kaplowitz
City Journal
Winter 2003

Steve in Greensboro said...

It is really pretty funny that progressives claim to think that the achievement gap is not due to either NAM IQs or the quality of classroom teachers. There really is nothing else that matters, but to be a progressive you have to deny both.

But it would be easy to raise NAM test scores (half or a full standard deviation) for individual groups. The tests are so dumbed down that test scores against history or against other groups would be certain to go up radically.

Here are the ingredients -- essentially take education out from under the dead hand of government and introduce individual choice.

1) Get rid of unions so teachers could be managed like every other employee in the private sector, rewarded when they do well and fired when they don't.
2) Let schools compete for students and admit only the ones they want. (You could finance via vouchers if you want.)
3) Let schools expel disruptive students.

Of course, if you implemented these changes universally then the IQ gap would come back, but everybody would be at a much higher level of performance.

But I think Progressives really want a Harrison Bergeron solution.

Dave Pinsen said...

Right - he even had another book published last year, at 97.

Ichabod Crane said...

>TFA is not necessarily still composed of Ivy League >grads

...any longer. That wasn't true a decade ago.

>And to those of you asking what is in it for them: a
>respectable job and steady income when most of
>their peers are struggling.

Also, TFA still has the reputation of only taking Ivy League/high-achieving types. So if you can get in out of state school with mediocre grades, at the end of your brief tenure, you will be able to pass as something better than what you are.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the posters, and perhaps Steve himself, doesn't get it. TFA has TREMENDOUS returns.
Informally, it has been explained to me that TFA is worth 7 LSAT points. That's the difference between Big State U and Harvard Law. That's the difference between a 100k ceiling and a 100k floor.
Places like the University of Chicago give out 30k scholarships PER YEAR for TFA grads. That's, basically, free law school. The present value of free law school is HUGE, especially when student loan rates are approaching 8% per annum.
Virginia offers half-off tuition.
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft has aggressively recruited from TFA and offers assured interviews (for those outside of law, an interview at BigLaw is MASSIVE, they literally DO NOT recruit outside of a few very select schools. A TFA'er from the lower levels of the t14 has an unfathomable advantage)
I don't know much about the MBA admissions process, but I bet you find a similar element going on.
It's not that they sign on blind and idealistic, it's *much* more mercenary than that

Alice said...

I disagree. TFA is doing a service. It is allowing people to confront reality. TFA founders are doing more for the Bell Curve argument than AmRen ever could.

Young, idealistic men and women coddled in their SWPL Ivies where institutional racism was the reason their black friends did so poorly join TFA and the scales fall from their eyes.

They see that they spend hours a day teaching children the most basic math to have it be forgotten the next day. They see that 3 weeks later nothing is retained. They see how hopeless it is.

They see that bad urban schools teaching SWPL constructivism *can never* teach the 2-digit IQers to function in the world, and they need some other form of basic direct unyielding instruction without high-faluting discussions or inquiry.

It is a giant shot of reality into the arm. It is the red pill, but they didn't know it. It may not happen that first year, but it happens.

Without TFA the illusions would never fail.

Xavier R. said...

The Orwellian irony of TFA is outwardly its a do gooder program that benefits poor minorities; in reality it's a jobs program for smart upper class college grads who are increasingly having a tough time finding a job (good or otherwise ....). That it also carries high SWPL social status is icing on the cake

jody said...

my cousin now runs the entire TFA operation for one of america's largest cities. i mention her once in a while on here. i asked her about michelle rhee and she said she's met her and been in meetings with her, though that was back when rhee was on the east coast.

her husband works for one of the major investment banks. he's a good guy, a southerner, who even served for a few years. but now he's going for the big bucks. needless to say, they're plugged into the elite machine which runs many of the cities in the US now. in a few years i'll have little in common with them.

they are liberal do-gooders, and certainly not cultural marxists, but it's their circle of friends who will slowly change them over time from the people i know into...whatever it is that people become after they've been in political circles for too long in washington DC, new york city, chicago, los angeles, or san francisco.

rho said...

The two year contract for TFA is a problem. A teacher won't even know how to navigate the supply closet for a year, much less make a meaningful impact on students.

Something may come of the second year, but if they're now counting down the days until they can vamoose, how much good can they really do?

Most teachers that make a difference do so because they've spent 20+ years in one school. They've taught a thousand families' siblings. One of my kids' elementary teachers taught the father of my daughter's classmate.

Silver said...

"Most teachers that make a difference do so because they've spent 20+ years in one school. They've taught a thousand families' siblings. One of my kids' elementary teachers taught the father of my daughter's classmate."

I had a teacher who had also taught my aunt. It gave me a warm feeling to know that. The teacher was competent and likable but not the best I ever had. I'd still rank her among the upper half of teachers with the ability to control or dampen the rebellious impulses of kids like me, ie kids who are not way out of control, but who will contribute to an atmosphere of mayhem if the teacher allows it but are also capable of shutting up and being very studious.

Anonymous said...

Instead of Ivy League and liberal arts majors, TFA needs combat veterans.

Discipline and intolerance of bad behavior are the key to raising test scores and having more functional schools. IQ has nothing to do with it. More discipline, more vouchers, and more expulsions of disruptive students would do it. Also, reduce single motherhood.

rightsaidfred said...

This reminds me of the line from the movie "The Big Chill" where one character mentions bailing on a public defender's job:

"I didn't think they would be so guilty."

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

The behavior of the students in these schools is atrocious, and then some. You can't explain the whole thing with race, IQ, and all of that jazz. Culture is important, too."

And you imagine that culture has nothing to do with race? You can't explain the whole thing WITHOUT race. The prevalent socially-accepted way of looking at things is that race has no bearing - none at all.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anthony said...

Not really. While they look for smarter teachers, they say they're looking for "more skilled" teachers - who've had the right sort of nurturing in college."

Yes really. In what way are TFA teachers - fresh out of college, and never having taught - "more skilled"? Quite obviously, the implicit assumption made by the TFA screens is that these kids are smarter than the average teacher.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: TFA has TREMENDOUS returns. Informally, it has been explained to me that TFA is worth 7 LSAT points... for those outside of law, an interview at BigLaw is MASSIVE, they literally DO NOT recruit outside of a few very select schools. A TFA'er from the lower levels of the t14 has an unfathomable advantage...

Alice: TFA founders are doing more for the Bell Curve argument than AmRen ever could... It is the red pill, but they didn't know it...

Exactly.

Darwin, meet Lamarck.

Lamarck, meet Darwin.

The great crossroads of Theory and Empiricism.

Who ya gonna believe, The Canon or your very own lying eyes?

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

d said...

How in hell does a modern society educate its young? That's a tough one.

I do not believe the British public school system is a good role model. It's basically pederastic.

Anti-Democracy Activist said...

"This guy seems to believe that stuff as well:

Why I moved my startup to Oakland"


I'm not sure what to make of that. Oakland is a geographically huge city, and despite its reputation, 90% of the crime takes place in just two neighborhoods. The rest of the place is a normal middle-class city. It's hard to know whether this guy really means what he says, or whether he just wanted to score some PC points while covering up the fact that his move was motivated by his desire to pay lower rents and municipal taxes than he would in SF or San Jose.

David said...

>Elite golf coaches would never go to public links, pick out random shlubs, and decide to coach them<

You just made the career of some reality TV producer. Stop giving the swipples bright ideas. I say it over and over but does anyone listen...?

>A question going unanswered is: why should they? What's in it for them? What incentive is used?<

The incentive certainly isn't financial. TFA pays s--t.

Anonymous said...

It looks as if people commenting here didn't pay much attention to the article. Miss Blanchard, its author, is arguing that the training TFA teachers receive is so inadequate that they cannot do the jobs they are hired to do. She received little instruction in class discipline, little in lesson-planning, and hardly any classroom time. In addition, TFA teachers, she says, are placed with no regard for their majors. In other words (to contradict Steve Sailer) the program's results do not prove that nature supersedes nurture, among teachers, but the opposite.

p.s. Trying to fix education by firing teachers whose students do poorly is a stupid idea, because it would encourage them to dumb down their lessons. The problem with US education is the constant threat of lawsuits from parents, which makes it impossible for teachers to teach without looking over their shoulder, and makes them cling to their unions for protection. Miss Blanchard actually mentions this issue, but you would have to read the article to know that.

Alias Clio

Melendwyr said...

"There never was a good knife made from bad steel." - Benjamin Franklin

Modern American educational theory is all about trying to make good knifes from bad steel. It can't be done.

Gringo said...

Bostonian @ 9/24/13, 7:15 PM linked to this article:
How I Joined Teach for America—and Got Sued for $20 Million
. This TFA recruit had similar opinion about the TFA training program: that it was too light on the nuts and bolts of basic teaching- what some cal Methods- and too heavy on PC fluff.

But the training program skimped on actual teaching and classroom-management techniques, instead overwhelming us with sensitivity training. My group spent hours on an activity where everyone stood in a line and then took steps forward or backward based on whether we were the oppressor or the oppressed in the categories of race, income, and religion. The program had a college bull session, rather than professional, atmosphere. And it had a college-style party line: I heard of two or three trainees being threatened with expulsion for expressing in their discussion groups politically incorrect views about inner-city poverty—for example, that families and culture, not economics, may be the root cause of the achievement gap.

Having read from two different sources about shortcomings in TFA training- shortcomings which are inexcusable given its paltry five weeks- I conclude there is some truth to the claim that the TFA five week training course has its problems. It is also of note that these two critiques of the TFA training course are a decade apart, which lends credibility to the critiques.

As a former teacher who has some strong criticisms of the traditional Ed School teacher training, it is interesting to see that an "Alternative" approach to teacher training replicates a lot of the mistakes of Ed School teacher training. Among the criticisms I had of my Ed School teacher training was that it needed more time spent on basic teaching methods and MUCH less time spent on PC nonsense. Which are both criticisms that these two former TFA recruits have made of the TFA teacher training program.

Cail Corishev said...

Gringo, that's only natural, since the people creating and running both programs don't consider any of it "PC nonsense." To them, every bit of that is absolutely necessary to turn out properly sensitive, tolerant, capable teachers.

Silver said...

Alias Clio,
"The problem with US education is the constant threat of lawsuits from parents, which makes it impossible for teachers to teach without looking over their shoulder, and makes them cling to their unions for protection. Miss Blanchard actually mentions this issue, but you would have to read the article to know that."

So what? Even if they could properly perform their jobs they would still be unable to make students perform equally. Students aren't equal. People aren't equal. They are just not equal. Never have been. Never will be. They are deeply unequal. Unequal, unequal, unequal. (And that's okay!) THAT, my dear, is the fundamental point. And until you can bring yourself to acknowledge it I couldn't care less about whatever brand new "wonder cures" you people dream up. Get it?

Anonymous said...

The purpose of TFA can be explained via recourse to an old David Brooks article in City Journal on the NYT wedding page.

The new upper class is richer than ever, but also feels more guilty about that. It is divided into "predators" (those who make the money) and "nurturers" (those who mitigate the bad effects of money grubbing on reputations).

"Nurturers" are the various do-gooders like the TFA types. They have many options. They can simply marry a predator for the money. Then their nurturing gives him cache, and they get the money. They don't have to do TFA forever. They can transition to an easier nurturing job or else just quit altogether to raise their own kids. Two years in TFA is like two years in the Peace Corps, you are a sanctified Good Liberal Person for the rest of your life, even if you live off hedge fund money.

Or, if the TFA student wants to become a predator herself, TFA's very selectivity is a HUGE help here. It helps get into elite jobs, Ivy business and law schools, and the like.

TFA is part and parcel of what Steve describes as the elite making life easier for themselves. The very fact that they draw only from the upper, upper tier of elite schools and then pay nothing is instrumental to its purpose. Without some daddy money backing you up, you can't play.

ben tillman said...

The behavior of the students in these schools is atrocious, and then some. You can't explain the whole thing with race, IQ, and all of that jazz. Culture is important, too.

Where do you think the culture comes from?

Anonymous said...

Silver, I don't know who you are, but I do know that you are a silly ass who reads more into what I said than was actually there.

I don't think all people are equal in the sense that you mean, i.e. I don't think that groups of people, as groups, are likely to have equal abilities. Nor do I think that "nurture" can make them equal in ability. I DO think that most or all children in the Western world today are very badly taught and fail to reach their potential, whatever that might be.

The bad teaching may be the result of innate incompetence or inadequate training, but I strongly suspect that self-delusion, political correctness, laziness, and politics are also behind it.

You appear to have mistaken me for an Education Progressive.

Alias Clio