Tuesday, December 25, 2012

TFA, celebrities, and a career in social justice

It should be a good thing that so many celebrities would want to use their fame and fortunes to help others.  It should be a good thing that young, bright college students would want to teach underprivileged youth in the hopes of solving the education gap, even if they have no intention of teaching beyond their mandatory two years.  It should be a good thing to devote your time to good causes, especially when it's easy to get caught up in life's comforts.

However, I am not sure that these are the people who should be considered the experts, the primary advocates of social justice.  Yes, they may have some experience in the field. They may have the heart and soul to do it.  They may have gained knowledge. All the same, if you had a serious illness, would you want someone who barely spent time working on your specific disease taking care of you, but was simply doing a brief fellowship? Or would you want a doctor who spends their life working on that condition taking charge of your care?

If your choice is the latter, as it would be for most, then shouldn't we want life long teachers helping to solve our educational crisis?  For social work, international development, education, for careers that demand your heart, brain, perseverance and extensive levels of education and credentials, do we really want to turn it over to those who might have the heart but likely not the experience or stamina to make it their lifelong career?

When we prepare people for the sciences, the health professions, engineering, and other such fields, we acknowledge that these careers involve extensive preparation and training as well as a lifelong commitment.  However, we choose to forget that for people who enter education, social work or international development.  We treat those fields as if anyone can do them, never mind that the people who choose these fields bust their butts to get the necessary credentials and experience. In addition, these same people have to justify their jobs and careers in the face of budget cuts and misplaced priorities, as they realize that our society does not particularly care about these same problems.  Portraying these fields as careers anyone can pursue with little training is dangerous to our society and shows that we truly do not prioritize these great needs.

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