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I was going to do a post on SOPA/PIPA this week, but then I realized that I’d be parroting my views on the Defense Act, and that would be repetitive at best. So this week I’ll paraphrase in an attempt to keep the redundancies to a minimum: Blah, blah… the American government is in the hands of corporate interests… blah, blah… Police State… blah, blah, blah. If you have a working internet connection, you should know about this already. And if you haven’t already contacted your Senator/Representative to express your displeasure, please get on it. Censoring the internet is kind of a big deal.

So, instead of going on a political rant like usual, I thought to start on the Teach for America organization. As one of the few post graduate programs that guarantee a paycheck, TFA has become increasingly popular in recent years; I believe the acceptance rate was less than 10 percent last year. If you’re graduating this semester, don’t like your current employment prospects and want to do something about America’s education problem, then you may want to start looking into it.

Let’s tackle some broad ideas first. For the uninitiated, Teach for America is a program that employs people (usually the recently graduated) and trains them to become primary and secondary school teachers. Their main pull is that they send their people to the worst districts in America. There are variations in the level of underachievement, lack of funding, and absence of support, but new teachers are needed in all regions. This is by no means a simple or easy commitment. These people are expected to make significant improvements in their classroom and work hours far beyond what their salary suggests. But the education system is a problem that we all need to deal with sooner or later and these people are a part of the solution.

This is not to say that the program is without its problems. Like any institution, they face obstacles in an extremely general terms, leaving the individuals within it to struggle as they are pulled in different directions. Case in point: a seminar for teachers to foster leadership in the classroom is nice, but also completely irrelevant when half of the teacher’s class is still illiterate. Also, in some areas, there are complaints that TFA teachers are forcing regular teachers out of the market. This may become a problem in the years to follow, since the vast majority of participants in the program do not remain teachers.

I’ll close with some personal details. No, I am not affiliated with TFA. Yes, my girlfriend is. With working conditions as they are (overcrowded, underfunded, etc.), I spend some time in the classroom as well. Obviously, there are some big problems with the education system that need to be resolved.

We’ll continue this next week.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Blakley.