America is supposed to be ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ And our bravery is really just an offshoot of our freedom — we can feel brave to say and write what we want because we know we have the freedom to do so. This is something that makes our country great.
So when I hear that TFA is practicing censorship, I get upset.
Before explaining about the latest episode, I’d like to give a brief history of censorship in Teach For America.
Before teachforus.org (which is not run by TFA), there were the tfanet.org professional boards. Those started in the summer of 2002. But before those, there was the TFA forum, which was a set of message boards on which people could post what they wanted. The most popular board was the ‘general’ board, and on that CMs would ask advice, or people would argue about things. There was even a heated debate about an article a CM published called ‘How I joined TFA — and got sued for $20,000,000.” Things got pretty rough, especially because anonymous posting was allowed.
And then in July 2002, there was an announcement that the message boards were going to be taken down and replaced with something ‘better.’ The thing they replaced it with, ten years ago, is still up, though rarely used. Rather than have a general board, they wanted to control the conversation so they made professional forums, or something like that. For the next six years, until this great teachforus.org came around, TFA had successfully squelched productive critical discussion.
Back in 2002, when I saw the website was going to be updated, I asked if they could migrate the content over. They said probably not. So I downloaded three of the discussions, just for posterity. You, I guess, are now posterity, so here are three ‘lost’ discussions on the old TFA site. Notice how the slogan was ‘The More You Teach, The More You Learn.’
Click here for an old discussion of ‘What to expect at institute?’
Click here for one about ‘Diversity training at institute.’
Click here for one called ‘I LOVE TFA & bash all non-cult members!’
Now, ten years later, I’ve learned of a new censorship which I’d like to share with all who read this blog. A new alumni blogger named Emmanuel Parello started his own blog here a few days ago. In his most recent post he wrote about how a TFA recruitment director sent an email to all TFA alumi that went to that college, and asked them to post tips for the new CMs from that school.
Well, Emmanuel has a unique situation since he quit after his first year. Quitting was a very tough decision, but he did what he had to do for his own well-being. He got back into teaching again after reassessing and retraining. So, even though he quit, he wanted to make sure his TFA alumniship didn’t go completely in vain by offering what he has learned from his experience to advise new CMs. So he wrote a post, only to learn from the recruitment director that the post was deleted for not giving enough of a positive message and then the he was removed from the group entirely (presumably so he doesn’t try to post any more negative messages.) I encourage everyone to read the full post.
I was very upset when I read this post, which inspired me to write this one. I also informed the amazing Diane Ravitch about this. I don’t like to bother her with things that aren’t important. As she tweeted this out to her 30,000+ followers, I think it is safe to say that this censorship has already backfired. It is really hard to keep secrets from the new CMs in this new age of social media, is the moral.
You may not know me, but think of me as Emmanuel’s big brother. Censorship is a type of bullying, and I don’t appreciate it. Censorship is un-American, so I implore you to 1) Put his post back up on that site, 2) Apologize to him. He gave it his all and suffered through a tough year. He deserves more respect, and 3) Restore his privileges to post on the board.
If you don’t do this, I may begin referring to Teach For America as ‘Teach For Un-America’ from now on and put a link to his post each time I do. Eventually your higher-ups will say, even if it is not true, that it was solely your decision to censor the valuable advice he wanted to share — even though it may have helped some of the CMs be more effective when trying to close the achievement gap. They will throw you under the proverbial bus.
I was proud when I joined TFA 21 years ago. Now it has become TFU. And they might as well lose the ‘T’ also.