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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 Four: Ignoring the Ghost of Horace Mann: A Reflective Critique of Teach For America’s Solipsistic Pedagogy



Ignoring the Ghost of Horace Mann: A Reflective Critique of Teach For America’s Solipsistic Pedagogy

MICHAEL J. STEUDEMAN Greater New Orleans, 2010–2012


Michael J. Steudeman began Teach For America (TFA) after completing a master’s degree in rhetorical studies. As a researcher of political language, he quickly realized he had entered an organization that contradicted his beliefs about the function and conduct of public education. Despite his misgivings, he sought, with little success, to proactively alter the organization from within its confines. As a corps member advisor (CMA), he trained new TFA members for two summers at the organization’s Institute. There, he experienced firsthand the struggles of new teachers who often finished their training insufficiently prepared for the challenges of working with students in low-income schools. Now a Ph.D. student in rhetoric and political culture, Steudeman studies education policy rhetoric throughout American history to unearth the historical antecedents to the language of contemporary education reform.


My future principal reviewed my résumé. Noting my experience teaching an introductory speech class to college freshmen, he perked up. “Well, at least you’ve taught before,” he said—a resounding vote of confidence. I had taught, in a sense, ← 47 | 48 → if two 75-minute periods a week of extemporaneous lecturing to a docile group of college students counts as “teaching.” When I joined Teach For America (TFA), I naively rationalized that my background as a college instructor would...

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