THE LITTLE REFORM THAT DOESNT! Teach for America doesnt work, the Post saidas it hailed Teach for America! // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2008
The role of the fairy tale: For the record, we favor appointing caretakers to vacant senate posts, then letting real candidates battle it out in future special elections. Nor do we have any negative views about Caroline Kennedy at all. As far as we know, Kennedy has always conducted herself like a good and constructive person.
But in todays Post, Ruth Marcus favors appointing Kennedy to Hillary Clintons senate seat. And uh-oh! Once again, a puzzling framework is invoked as Marcus describes her approach to this question. Its much as weve told you in the past: At the upper end of your mainstream press corps, pundits often seem to live inside a fictional realm:
Coda means ending. Marcus has therefore gone on record: Shes hoping for a happy ending to a fairy tale.
Endlessly, the world is a novel for these elitesa pleasing story, a fiction, tale. (Two paragraphs earlier, Marcus notes this: There are any number of intriguing subplots at work here.) Indeed, when Marcus briefly tries to reason, this is the pap we get served:
Is Kennedy being helped by her celebrity? Yes, she is, Marcus saysbut others have been helped by celebrity too! Continuing to reason in this manner, Marcus notes that Kennedy has written a book (few New Yorkers have ever done that!) and she says that the potential solon possesses expertise on education reform. In fact, Kennedy has co-written a pair of booksand well guess that her expertise on education reform is exceedingly thin. But this is the way modern pundits will reason in support of preferred fairy tales.
Ruth Marcus seems like a nice person herself. She also seems like a deeply-unconscious palace dweller. Inside the palace, life remains fine. Pundits live for riding to hounds, and for the danceand for preferred, pretty tales.
The little reform that doesnt: On the front page of Saturdays Post, Megan Greenwell penned a long piece (1380 words) about the Teach for America program. One paragraph struck us as very important. It was paragraph 12 in her long reportout of 27 in all:
Say what? [A]t least three major studies in the past several years indicate that students taught by [Teach for America] teachers score significantly lower? Greenwell said this research isnt conclusive. But we thought that paragraph (paragraph 12) was remarkablereally quite striking.
Why did we find that passage so striking? Because of the way the Washington Postand the upper-class press corps generallyloves pimping Teach for America. Indeed, someone should quickly introduce Greenwell to her papers editorial board! Just two days before her piece appeared, the board produced this high-minded editorial; the editors begged Obama to opt for boldnessfor bold reform in selecting his Secretary of Education. And in the mahoganied world of our upper-end press corps, educational reform almost always means Teach for America! The Post didnt even feel the need to explain what TFA is, or why its a useful reform:
In that passage, the Post listed three markers of reform; TFA was one of the three, and it was quickly pimped again. But then, David Brooks had promoted the same connectionTFA means reform!in the New York Times that same morning:
Brooks offered only one marker of [strong] reform. And sure enoughit was TFA! When Greenwell sits down with her newspapers board, maybe Brooks can audit the course.
Endlessly, Teach for America gets ballyhooed by a largely know-nothing, upper-end press corps. For that reason, we thought that one paragraphparagraph 12was striking in Greenwells piece. But Greenwells piece was not an attempt to warn that TFA may be ineffective reform. Quite the contrary: In its basic format, Greenwells piece was the latest attempt to spread the good news about TFAs success!
Greenwell does deserve lots of credit for including that one lonely paragraph. But when Teach for America appears on page one, its treatmentby lawmust be upbeat. In fact, Greenwell was writing about TFAs latest triumphabout the way a tough economy has encouraged even more college grads from the very best schools to join the programs ranks. Within that framework, here is the longer passage in which Greenwell explains that this ballyhooed reform doesnt quite seem to work:
The program doesnt seem to work. But so what? Bamigboye is still described as top talenteven though the evidence suggests that she wont perform like top talent during her two years in the program. (Meanwhile, in a weird construction, Greenwell notes that TFAs success in attracting such college students hasnt silenced its critics.) Its the law! By the rules of the game, the fact that even more elite grads are signing up simply has to represent another high point for the program!
Readers, even more of our brightest grads will be failing to help low-income students! It takes a deeply disordered world view to keep churning such upbeat narratives about a reform that doesnt seem to work. Teach for America doesnt work. But long live Teach for America!
Greenwell deserves a lot of credit for including paragraph 12. But nothing seems to stop the pimping of The Little Reform That Doesnt. What could be driving such puzzling workthe insistence on such upbeat frameworks?
Could it be Satan? the Church Lady asked. Tomorrow, well suggest a different possible answer, after reviewing this borderline comical piece about Obamas quite-elite helpers.