I know that people always get upset, no matter how many times I issue this disclaimer, when I use a blog post or tweet from a new corps member to illustrate some of the problems with the TFA ‘mindset’ training. These are never intended to be personal attacks. I just like to do them as a way of helping people, particularly the new CMs, understand the issues in a highly relevant way. As a TFA alum who has many TFA alum friends, I know that CMs are generally good people. I don’t think there are very many who are just doing it to put on their resume. So my critiques are of the way that TFA takes these good people and, in a sense, brainwashes them by feeding them the reform ‘Kool Aid’ and by shielding them from critical commentary.
I’ve recently been made aware of a new 2013 CM named Chad and who goes by the twitter handle @ChadForAmerica. Again, if Chad reads this, I want to be clear that I don’t fault him for what he has been writing. TFA corps members, despite supposedly having been chosen for their leadership potential, are very docile and even gullible. They seem to trust TFA blindly and are not able to even consider alternative points of view.
One of Chad’s first tweets is a good example of this:
Yes, I understand that this is his ‘street’ way of saying that he is going to accomplish transformational change, but when you really get into the subtext, intentional or not, this is quite disturbing. Has TFA encouraged him to think that inner city kids are filled with feces and that regular non-TFA teachers have been content with this while only TFA teachers have the ability to extract it from them? Again, I am not attacking Chad, as I know commenters are sure to blame me for, but the way that TFA surely influenced him to think this way, or at least does not discourage it.
Chad has been active since he began tweeting about a week ago, amassing over 5,000 followers already. In his tweets he continues to give a glimpse into the TFA mindset conditioning. I’ve seen things like this before from bloggers on this site, so generally this has been nothing new to me, but I recently saw a twitter interchange with Chad that really hit home with me:
In this last tweet Chad has revealed something very disturbing. It is one thing that TFA has not, over the years, encouraged TFAers to read my two guidebooks for new teachers, ‘Reluctant Disciplinarian’ and ‘Beyond Survival’ despite the fact that they were written with TFA teachers specifically in mind with the kind of advice that would help them be more effective teachers. I can live with that. But for TFA to actively DISCOURAGE corps members from being seen with me. This is just very upsetting to me. And notice that Chad calls me ‘Jerry Rubenstein’ with the wrong first name and the last name spelled with an ‘e’ instead of an ‘i.’ Of course this just could be Chad having misheard the warning, but I think a much more likely explanation is that TFA deliberately told them a distorted version of my name just in case Chad would get curious and try to google me to see what this taboo person was all about. TFA has even taken away from Chad the option of getting an alternative perspective. This time they have gone too far.
Again, I’m not blaming Chad. He’s really just a kid doing what he is told. But for TFA to encourage this, or at least not discourage it, is unforgivable. I was starting to mellow out a bit recently, especially after being invited to the TFA listens tour and meeting with the two new co-CEOs. I even was encouraged by the recent Huffington Post piece by co-CEO Elissa Villanueava-Beard where she describes that TFA is going to embrace critical views from alumni as we are all under TFA’s ‘Big Tent’ (a phrase TFA surely paid $100,000 to a PR firm to devise). Well, if telling people not to associate with me and then even going so far to not tell them my accurate name is a big tent, then it is a tent that really has a big hole over my head so I can get rained on and hailed on while they all remain dry. That is not a way to treat someone who has been involved with this organization for the past twenty-two years just because we differ on some aspects of education reform.