Monday, February 16, 2015

Readers vary on whether deploying volunteer teachers is the best way to help disadvantaged students (NY Times, Economist, Change)

Monday’s New York Times (on President’s Day) has a series of letters to the editor on “Teaching the Needy” here  referring to an earlier (Feb. 5) story by Mokoto Rich, that fewer top graduates want to join “Teach for America” (linked in the first letter).
The gist of these stories is that the underprivileged need experienced teachers committed to the cause for years or life, not recent volunteer “interns”. 
Teaching, as a career field, did not enjoy a particularly good reputation during the decades that I was working in IT. 
When I worked as a sub (2004-2007), the “need” was not so much for tech or calculus teachers (as advocated in social media posts from Mark Zuckerberg, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Jack Andraka (as here in a pitch for the Talent Act), to name only a few), as for “lower end” personalized attention and drill .  Many of the kids needed more fathering than teaching, to put it mildly.  I even had phone discussions with the late filmmaker Gode Davis (“American Lynching” needs to be completed) about this, as Gode also worked as a sub.
The Economist has a relevant article “High-fliers in the classroom”, p. 53 (and 54). Feb 14, 2015, here. This article supports putting the best graduates in schools around the world. 
But “service” takes on more dangerous aspects –  doctors and nurses and aid workers to go to zones with Ebola or other new diseases, or even to places like Syria.  The same is true of reporters, who see “conflict reporting” and the dire risk taking as a kind of public service and dues payment (Brian Williams notwithstanding).

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