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Teach For America Counter-Narratives

Alumni Speak Up and Speak Out


Edited By Jameson T. Brewer and Kathleen deMarrais

In its twenty-five years of existence, Teach For America (TFA) has transformed from an organization based on a perceived need to ameliorate a national teacher shortage to an organization that seeks to systematically replace traditional fully-certified teachers while simultaneously producing alumni who are interested in facilitating neoliberal education reform through elected political positions. From its inception, TFA has had its share of critics; yet criticism of the organization by its own members and alumni has largely been silenced and relegated to the margins.
This book – the first of its kind – provides alumni of TFA with the opportunity to share their insight on the organization. And perhaps more importantly, this collection of counter-narratives serves as a testament that many of the claims made by TFA are, in fact, myths that ultimately hurt teachers and students. No longer will alumni voices be silenced in the name of corporate and neoliberal education reform.
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Chapter Eighteen: Beyond Dupes, Disciples, and Dilettantes: Ideological Struggles of TFA Corps Members



Beyond Dupes, Disciples, and Dilettantes: Ideological Struggles of TFA Corps Members

TERRENDA WHITE Los Angeles, 2002–2004


Terrenda is an assistant professor of sociology and education at the University of Colorado–Boulder. She studies market-driven education reforms in urban communities and their cultural and pedagogical implications for classroom teaching and learning, including their impact on teacher professional autonomy and identity.


In this chapter, I share aspects of my own experience as a 2002 corps member and those of 10 fellow corps members of color,1 whose inside stories I collected over several years. I use these stories to explore the ways in which Teach For America (TFA) corps members have experienced, and struggled against, the organization’s ideologies about the causes of and solutions to educational inequality in the United States. Often, TFA constructs and endorses representations of corps members as a cadre of “super-heroic” (Trujillo & Scott, 2014) individuals with an extraordinary work ethic, whose dedication is superior to that of traditional teachers, and whose sheer will and efficacy alone is enough to fix dysfunctional urban schools and close academic achievement gaps. Indeed, my own first year as a corps member was ← 179 | 180 → documented by a major news network and subsequently used in recruitment materials by the TFA organization. Excluded in such depictions of our teaching are our colleagues and the veteran educators who work alongside us in urban schools. Also invisible are...

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