Boston Commencent 2013

I am currently in Boston for my daughter’s graduation from BU. As I searched for an image about Boston to embed into this post, I discovered that just about all of the images I came across on google were of the destruction caused by the Boston Marathon bombings. So, just for the record, Boston is a beautiful city that has harbored my daughter for the past four years. I am grateful for her time here and am confident she will do great things in the world.

Unfortunately, the commencement speaker, TfA founder Wendy Kopp, was uninspiring although she had clearly prepared her speech. Kopp introduced herself as “the person responsible for those persistent Teach for America recruiters who have been after you all year,” Yet, those same recruiters when challenged about TfA and its mission by the very students they are trying to recruit, don’t bother to respond demonstrating an unwillingness to engage in dialogue about the ultimate purpose and premises of TfA. But, back to Kopp. Besides being a horrible public speaker, she said a few things that left those of us with staying power to listen to her till the bitter end, a bit dumbfounded. I didn’t record her speech and I didn’t take notes during her presentation, though some tidbits can be found on the BU website, I do remember three comments in particular that I will respond to, even if it’s only for my own peace of mind.

First of all, she told students that she favors inexperience and that the world needs more copycats. Hmmm. So, let’s eliminate all experienced teachers from schools and substitute them with TfA recruits (I can’t call them teachers until they’ve actually gone through a certified teacher training program) because it’s better to have 4.0 inexperienced Ivy League graduates teaching our “neediest” students who will leave after two or three years and never look back, than making sure that the teachers we do have in those schools are well-prepared to teach their students. And, while we’re at it, let’s encourage copying as the highest level of education. Maybe that’s why the Common Core was established? To make sure that there’s lots of copying going on in all schools in the US? Could it be?

Then, she made a comment I could agree with: teachers are in it for the long haul. Umm…yes. So, what is this two-year commitment about?? Basically, she’s saying that most of the TfA recruits aren’t really teachers and most will never be because they’re just around for a short while until they get into graduate school or their ideal job turns up. There’s something that just doesn’t make sense about this statement.

Finally, Wendy Kopp has expanded her business to the developing world. She has launched Teach for All and is in Peru, China and possibly somewhere else. By this time, I was so incensed that I was having a hard time listening to her at the same time that I maintained my composure. Is she anticipating the demise of TfA because of the growing opposition within the professional community? Or, does she simply see a good business opportunity? I don’t know but the idea that it’s a good thing to go into another country and tell them how to improve their educational system because we’re doing such a great job in the US is laughable at best and insulting at worst.

Fortunately, Morgan Freeman, who received an honorary degree said some brief words to the delight of all present, brightening up an otherwise gloomy morning.

Congratulations to all the BU 2013 graduates and especially to my daughter who will go places in the world!

Cross posted to A Slice of Life

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