The tenure system in American higher education is a limitless source of debate: Critics say it leaves younger scholars to publish or perish, or decaying professors to cash in on mediocrity; advocates note its importance in protecting academic freedom, risk-taking and, insofar as professors are workers, job security.
On September 9, Sallie Mae became the 50th corporation to cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council—and the first to do so under pressure from students.
On the week of July 29, fast-food workers in Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Kansas City, Milwaukee, New York and St. Louis walked off the job, calling for $15 an hour and the unabridged right to form a union—and setting the stage for a nationwide walkout a month later.
Teach for America is at universities, recruiting high-achieving graduates to teach in the nation’s underserved urban and rural areas. It's at school boards, lobbying districts to renew its contracts and import hundreds of its members. It's in corporate boardrooms, asking for tens of millions in funding. With more than 32,000 alumni, its former participants helm the majority of Achievement First charter schools, half of KIPP schools, and the superintendencies of D.C., Louisiana, and Tennessee. They dominate the well-funded, well-connected universe of charter schools and high-stakes testing advocacy. Teach for America is, increasingly, America. Now, it's facing a civil war.
Twenty-four years running, the rap on Teach for America (TFA) is a sampled, re-sampled, burned-out record: The organization’s five-week training program is too short to prepare its recruits to teach, especially in chronically under-served urban and rural districts; corps members only have to commit to teach for two years, which destabilizes schools, undermines the teaching profession, and undercuts teachers unions; and TFA, with the help of its 501(c)4 spin-off, Leadership for Educational Equity, is a leading force in the movement to close “failing” schools, expand charter schools, and tie teachers’ job security to their students’ standardized test scores. Critics burn TFA in internet-effigy across the universe of teacher listservs and labor-friendly blogs. Last July, it earned Onion fame: an op-ed entitled “My Year Volunteering As A Teacher Helped Educate A New Generation Of Underprivileged Kids,” followed by a student’s take, “Can We Please, Just Once, Have A Real Teacher?”
In the early hours of May 30, Seattle residents looking for a late-night chalupa fix were rebuffed by a sign outside the Taco Bell on Broadway: “We apologize for the inconvenience but we will be closing at midnight tonight due to short staffing.”
I grew up in Oxford, Connecticut, a town over from Newtown. Both are solidly white and (at a minimum) middle class, with white, middle-class politics to boot. Democrats and Republicans shake hands after yelling at each other. Democrats vote for Republicans if they’re known to be respectable people around town. There are no police review boards; the police are who you call when you accidentally set off your house alarm. And, in one of America’s most racially balkanized states, there’s little talk of racial injustice. For residents of Connecticut’s white getaways, society is, by default, post-racial.