Dear . . . .
Unlike many people on this list serve, I am not an expert on pedagogy, nor someone with a lifetime of experience teaching, or training teachers, in public
schools. However I have over forty years of teaching and research in labor history under my belt, and from that vantage point, I think Teach for America has become a profoundly destructive force in American society
My colleagues can talk much better about the role Teach for America has played in de-professionalizing the teaching profession--in convincing policy makers that six weeks of training in a summer program can be substituted for years of training and supervision in a graduate school of education
My comments will focus on the role TFA has played in union busting and wage compression in the public sector. In the last few years TFA has encouraged,or at least passively accepted, a pattern of school districts firing veteran teachers and replacing them with TFA corps members. This has happened most recently in Montgomery Alabama, a city where one of the education scholars on this list serve Katie Stafford Strom grew up, but it has happened in at least five cities I know of, mostly in the South. Such a policy is attractive to financially strapped municipalities who save money on pensions and labor costs, but its effect on public sector wages is absolutely devastating. Since there are no gains to be made in educational quality through such a policy, what you have is TFA becoming a the elite's chosen instrument to break unions and lower labor costs.
This is why the Walton Foundation has contributed so generously to TFA. The weaker public sector unions become, the less likely the labor movement is able to unionize Wal-mart, something, by the way, that would instantaneously lift hundreds of thousands of families out of poverty and do more to promote educational achievement than all current educational reform initiatives combined.
Let me be blunt. Unless you and other progressive teachers in TFA protest against the organization's policy encouraging districts to fire veteran teachers so that TFA can be brought in, you are guilty of condoning strikebreaking. In the 1930's they would have called you a "scab," and you would not have been treated very kindly by those losing their jobs, and members of their families
But of course this is 2012 and you are all wonderful idealistic young people devoted to helping young people escape poverty through education. You have received nothing but praise from the press, politicians and officials of the US Department of Education, and will have ample opportunities inside and out of education, when you leave teaching, as most of you will do. But while you may be wonderful individually, you are part of an organization which is ruining the careers of veteran teachers, weakening uninons, and driving down public sector wages.
I can't tell you what to do, but the first thing I recommend is doing dome serious soul searching about what your role will be in an organization which is doing serious long term damage to the standard of living of American workers