Is the wave of post-TFA community activism something to cheer or fear?

A recent article by Jackie Mader of Hechinger Report, featured on Next City, brings to the nation a discussion that many of us here in the Mississippi Delta have been having for a while. Former members of Teach For America, some of whom are Mississippi natives, are remaining (or returning) to the state’s poorest area to tackle some of our longest standing problems. TFA itself has a long, controversial history in Delta schools, but this article looks at an issue that has stirred very mixed feelings here. Former TFAers are becoming power movers of sorts in the area of educational reform in the state.

Here’s the comment I posted on the article after I read it:

I have taught my entire career (25 years) in the Delta, including in Shelby where I was working when I was named Mississippi Teacher of the Year (2001) and when I earned my National Board Certification. I don’t begrudge the young TFA corps members who want to work off their student loans by doing some good in places like the Delta–which has had chronic teacher shortages for over 25 years. In fact, the state of Mississippi has offered its home-grown teacher education grads that same opportunity along with funds for housing and other perks, if they would teach in the Delta for 2 years, sadly, with few takers. However, as the article rightly notes, few of the TFA complete their time or stay once it’s over, so the ones in this article are exceptions.

While the work that these young people are doing is admirable and necessary, it is deeply ironic that they are able to get funding and support that native Deltans who have tried to do the same things have been denied for decades. It is hurtful when they are portrayed by some as saviors come to the Delta, while those who have been doing this work unheralded, unsupported, or outright opposed for years are misrepresented as uncaring or incompetent.

Is the wave of post-TFA community activism something to cheer or fear?

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