Education Next recently posted this interview with David Gergen, advisor to many presidents, discussing the motivations of young, liberal Teach For America Corps Members and how they interact with unions. He points out a central tension between a TFA CM’s liberal pro-union beliefs and their participation in a program that many teachers unions see as a battering ram against job security. He argues that TFA CMs of 2012 are not looking for job security, high pay, and health benefits as considerations 1, 2, and 3 immediately out of college. Instead, he argues thats TFA CMs are more interested in having an interesting job that is changing their world in a meaningful way.
Another interesting point he makes is that pre-911 the Marines were facing a serious lull in recruiting. They addressed this problem not by lowering the bar to admission, but rather raising the bar and making the Marines even MORE selective. They saw a huge increase in high quality, energetic recruits immediately after these changes were put into effect. Many education reform advocates have emphasized the need to increase the prestige of teaching and the quality of teachers entering the profession.
What Gergen is pushing on is something I have experienced myself. I come from pro-union Michigan where my political beliefs were forged in union halls. Since joining TFA my views have adapted into believing that unions, although important, must also adapt to the changing education landscape. More importantly, the experience teaching has informed and changed my views of education reform in ways that no class or political campaign could have ever done.