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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 Eight: Dysconscious Racism, Class Privilege, and TFA



Dysconscious Racism, Class Privilege, and TFA

SARAH ISHMAEL Baton Rouge, 2010–2013


Sarah Ishmael is an Afro-Caribbean woman and first-generation American. She is the proud daughter of a retired U.S. Army colonel and an entrepreneur, both of whom moved to the States and worked to give their daughter an exceptionally bright future. Sarah is a second-year M.Ed. student in the Education Planning and Policy program at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to her graduate studies, she earned a B.A. from the Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Washington University. She then completed the Teach For America program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She taught elementary and middle school for 3 years. Her research interests include policy implementation in minority communities, critical race theory, critical multiculturalism, and relationships between political bodies, schools, and community stakeholders.


“Stories by people of color,” Gloria Ladson-Billings writes, “can catalyze the necessary cognitive conflict to jar dysconscious racism”1 (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 2006, p. 21). The purpose of my narrative is to create such cognitive conflict. I am an Afro-Caribbean woman, a first-generation American whose grandparents moved ← 85 | 86 → her mother and father from Trinidad and Tobago for better life opportunities. I have lived in six states but grew up in a majority White town in Washington State. The daughter of an Army colonel and an entrepreneur, I grew up in the borderlands2 of socioeconomic privilege, racial exclusion,...

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