#ResistTFA and the Zero-Sum Game

In the middle of writing my piece on Jordan Davis and the lack of volume about the decision / non-decision on Michael Dunn, a few people bristled at the idea that Teach for America would use my piece as a rebuff of #ResistTFA, a trend started by education activists to combat the deleterious effects of Teach for America on K-12 education. Um, that’s not quite how it went down.

In fact, I knew about the hashtag, but I didn’t know when people would discuss this nor did I know that the conversation would make it to Al Jazeera or a few newspapers across the country. If anything, I wrote the Jordan Davis piece as its own isolated rejoinder to the ignorance I saw. I do mean ignorance in the truest sense of the word, for, to ignore this event is to ignore the students in front of you.

Unless you think you’re absolved from the results of a court case about a kid that looks like he could be my kid. Whatever works for you.

In any case, one commenter in particular found it curious that I would write this Davis piece because, “If the rule was that no one can speak out on an issue unless they have already spoken out on all the other concurrent tragedies, then everyone would have to go silent,” then went to try and challenge my record on these things.

A few things:

  • do speak to international issues, early and often. I speak on war, capitalism, race, gender, and homophobia frequently, but you’d actually have to know me to say that.
  • Me calling out folks for not speaking on these issues doesn’t dismiss any particular movement.
  • One of the more vocal people on this issue, Katie Osgood, actually did a lesson on Jordan Davis the day I published said piece, and I applauded it instantly.

But you don’t hear me though.

People want me to box me in because it behooves them. The “with us or against us” mentality helps people thick lines in the sand based on their handful of comfortable issues like Google’s latest gadgets, 1-to-1 laptop classrooms, teacher evaluation, Gates’ evil escapades, and standardized testing, as if our social ills would be instantly rectified if we just focused on the issues they only now deem relevant because it’s affecting their kids, too.

Yes, I #ResistTFA because Stephanie Rivera and Hannah Nguyen were a big part of it, and I also recognize that, while we want to reform the ways of the organization, we have a plethora of teachers in front of my kids right now, many of whom need to hear us out, not tune us out. There are teachers within TFA who agree with us and blend readily with us in marches and petition-writing campaigns. There’s also a multi-million dollar organization that negotiates with districts who, rather than have expert teachers in the neediest areas, hire novices who generally don’t see themselves as career teachers, symptomatic of a system willing to push students down a downward system of pipes meant to look like progress.

That’s called nuance, but you don’t hear me though.

Because, no matter the teacher in front of my son, I would love for her or him to have high expectations for him, a sense of cultural responsiveness, a good background in pedagogy and content knowledge, and a spine when my son needs them to have one. Perhaps I’m asking for too much, but, until them, I continue to advocate for an education system for our most in-need. This is part of an overall plan for racial justice that doesn’t just include electing a Black president.

It’s not over for me. Not by a long shot.


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