The cool thing to do after college

Teach for America has become the “one of the coolest things you can do after college,” writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in the Wall Street Journal.  This year, 12 percent of Ivy League seniors applied to TFA, along with 7 percent of University of Michigan graduates and 6 percent of Berkeley grads.

A quarter of all black seniors at Ivy League schools and a fifth of Latinos applied to be teachers in the 2010 corps.

Of course, critics say TFA teachers don’t stay long enough in the classroom to get good. A majority leave teaching after two years and 80 percent leave after three years, according to a new study.

Here’s a link to blogs by TFA teachers, some of whom are in summer training programs.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    And why wouldn’t it be popular?

    1) It’s a job

    2) It’s a job that is, essentially, with the government.

    3) It’s a job with the government that fulfills most Ivy League liberal sensibilities of helping the poor and the wretched, but it only lasts a few years so it’s not like you’re, you know, actually going to LIVE that life with THOSE people.

    4) It’s a job with the government that fulfills liberal sensibilities but because of its inherent (statistical) time limitation, it “keeps options open” — the preferred activity of the modern student whose greatest fear is committing to something.

    5) It’s a job with the government that fulfills liberal sensibilities and doesn’t tie you down that looks good on your resume if and when you apply to grad or law school.

    In this way, it’s much like going overseas to teach English for a few years, or joining the Peace Corps — all things that have been popular in their time.

  2. bill eccleston says:

    There’s a difference between a view being “trenchant” and “cement-headed.”

    I think the previous comment would have a better claim to the former description if the writer took a broader view of the political landscape and his particular point in it.

    Educational thinking in this country is badly in need of deep, sustained criticism. Yes, it seems, four out of five TFA participants do retreat to the privileged suburbs and a place in the uppermost tier of the power structure after their stint, but what do they bring with them? They have witnessed first-hand the rot, the cant and the confusion of the “Progressive” American educational system that, historically, in every other instance of crisis, has easily parried the reform efforts of its critics perhaps because, in the view of the elite, the problem was “academic.” Well, it’s not academic anymore for our TFA veterans
    returning to their leafy bowers.

    I should think then, that if I were a political reactionary, it would only do my cause good to provide for my opponents every opportunity for removing the scales from their eyes.

  3. My problem with this program is that the cream leave for grad school or a better job. The state-college grads who might actually stick with teaching don’t even get a chance at this sort of program. I think those graduates would be better served by a cheerleading program with this kind of public exposure.

  4. A number of my college classmates did TFA. Yes, all but one did leave classroom teaching but most of them are still in fields related to education. Several became administrators. Several others work in educational policy. One is a child psychologist. One is a social worker.

    A very large percent of new teachers who are NOT part of TFA leave the profession within 5 years anyways. So it’s not like the traditional certification programs are doing such a great job at preparing their graduates for a long-term career in the profession either.

  5. superdestroyer says:

    People should remember that teaching is a normally distributed career field. People do not get paid more for being better teachers and a teacher educated at Georgetown does not get paid more than a teacher educated at George Mason.

    However, one attends an Ivy league in hopes of going into a log-normally career field such as law, policy, or I-banking. So everyone must realize that no male Ivy leaguers will ever stay as a teacher. A few of the women might if their husbands are in a log-normal field.

  6. Gosh, can anyone think of any other reason why TFA applications might be particularly high this year, as opposed to their terminal coolness factor?

  7. bill eccleston says:

    Nothing like green-eyed jealousy to stir up the muck…


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