This Is Your Brain On TFA

I often get the sense that something happens to the brains of people who do their two years or less at Teach For America and then, rather than continue to teach, go on to "stay in education" as "leaders." Maybe their self-granted halos are a little too tight.

Take Newark State Superintendent Cami Anderson:


So, as a college student, I organized a group of female athletes to challenge the university on the basis of gender inequity. We had amazing mentors -- my aunt who was a university employee and is a sports enthusiast, the Title IX officer for the University of California, a free-lance journalist who knew a lot about the Title IX law and movement. After a thoroughly-researched, public letter threatening a lawsuit was distributed far and wide, dozens of meetings, and several news stories -- the university agreed to massive changes. Female and male sports budgets merged, across all sports, and head coaches were mandated to ensure equity. Literally, overnight, we bought three new boats, moved in to share the men's boat house, gained access to the best weight rooms at the university, and began to fly -- instead of driving 15 hours -- to races.


As Superintendent of Newark Public Schools (NPS), I am no stranger to controversy and feel many of the dynamics I experienced in my Title IX days -- and throughout my life as an activist -- are at play in the fight for educational equity (in Newark and nationally). Vilifying the leader is a way of discrediting them and preventing them from earning the trust they need to lead. Fear, intimidation, and gender politics are alive and well. More people benefit from a broken public education system than may otherwise be obvious including people who should be "natural allies" for change. In the face of abject failure, even mediocrity is celebrated and challenging that is difficult. It is wildly unpopular to say what we have been doing is failing and even more controversial to make bold proposals that challenge sacred cows -- and adult interests embedded in the status quo.

Folks, there's no bigger fan of Title IX than yours truly. I say that as the uncle and brother of some outstanding college athletes who happen to be women. Women deserve all the protections and entitlements and privileges that have been traditionally reserved for men. 

But let's recap:

Apparently, the following acts are exemplars of moral courage:

  • Requesting that the state overturn a recent tenure law that was negotiated in good faith by the Newark Teachers Union -- a law that seems to be working out well across the rest of the state.
  • Implementing a school restructuring plan that disproportionately targets teachers of color, even though there is scant little evidence that plan will do a thing to help student achievement.
  • Walking out on a mother because you, and you alone, have decided what is and is not appropriate speech for people who are advocating for their children.
  • Suspending principals for daring to exercise their first amendment rights.
  • Throwing PTO presidents out of schools and suspending staff because you don't like what they say on the phone when they're in the bathroom.
  • Reneging on teacher compensation deals that were suspicious to begin with. 
  • Taking a bow at the biggest speech of the year for your boss, who has said explicitly he does not care about the opinions of those citizens of Newark who dare to disagree with him.
  • According to them both, not heeding the summons of the chair of the state's most important legislative committee on schools, and not answering the emails of the elected representative of your school board.

All of these acts are so selfless, so noble, so righteous indeed that they deserve a public self-lauding -- one where the author can tell us all about her lonely, arduous crusade at her extremely elite college to get more money for her crew team so she could fly to her meets rather than drive.

Take a sec to let that sink in...

Anderson really should be more careful: she just might re-injure herself, what with all the contorting she's doing to pat herself on the back.

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