When I started Teach For America, I wasn't trying to come up with an idea that would change the world. I was trying to solve a problem much closer to home: I was a senior in college and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life! I'm sure that doesn't sound at all familiar.
"Teach For America exists to address the incredible gaps in educational outcomes that persist along racial and socio-economic lines in our country. We believe this is the greatest civil rights issue of our generation."
We will have to learn to hold two ideas at the same time: We must both reduce poverty and improve our schools. We cannot fix our schools without strengthening the teaching profession and addressing the social conditions that shape their outcomes.
No doubt the road ahead will be filled with challenges and pitfalls, but, with help, we believe these emerging leaders will replace cynicism with hope, callousness with compassion, and destructive self-interest with creation of societal gains.
Some hail it as the solution to our need for highly qualified teachers in every classroom. Others define it as a stopgap measure based on a model so transitory to make it dangerous at best, and racist at worst.
I can't help but wonder if it isn't an intentional Catch 22 that some people are trying to trap our public schools in: setting them up to fail, making it impossible for them to be creative or independent.
One thing consistently puzzles me: there's a significant disconnect between policy makers and people who are working on actual problems in the grassroots. Wendy Kopp and Gerald Chertavian should not have to hire a lobbying firm.