Teach For America Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic-Studies Major is a parody story in The Onion. But it’s not that far from reality.
NEW YORK — Teach For America, a national program that recruits recent college graduates to teach in low-income rural and urban communities, has devoured another ethnic-studies major, 24-year-old Andy Cuellen reported Tuesday.
“Look, the world is a miserable place,” said Cuellen, a Dartmouth graduate who quit the TFA program Monday morning. “All people — even children — are just nasty animals trying to secure their share of the food supply. I don’t care how poor or how rich you are, that’s just a fact. I’m sorry, but I have better things to do than zoo-keep for peanuts.”
Just one of the 12,000 young people TFA has burned through since 1990, Cuellen was given five weeks of training the summer before he took over a classroom at P.S. 83 in the South Bronx last September.
. . . According to Dartmouth literature, as a member of the ethnic-studies department, Cuellen learned “to empower students of color to move beyond being objects of study toward being subjects of their own social realities, with voices of their own.”
Teach For America executive director Theo Anderson called ethnic-studies departments “a prime source of fodder.”
“Oh, I’d say we burn through a hundred or so ethnic-studies majors each year,” said Anderson, pointing to a series of charts showing the college-major breakdown of TFA corps members. “They tend to last a little longer than women’s studies majors and art-therapy students, but Cuellen got mashed to a pulp pretty quickly.
TFA recruits graduates of elite colleges. Most are not ethnic studies or women’s studies majors. And they commit to teaching for two years before moving on to other careers or deciding to become certified teachers. But many are thrown into high-stress teaching situations at high-poverty schools where it’s nearly impossible to make a difference. I’d bet the Onion writer knows at least one TFA teacher.