TFA Uber Alles

I saw this linked on Steve Sailer’s site and thought it worth a different take. Steve tends to focus on the race angle, which is not unreasonable. For as long as I have been alive, public policy types have been harping about the race gap. Sometimes they take a break and lecture about the lack of females in science, technology and math fields. They always start with the same premise. White men have rigged the game and are surreptitiously keeping the black man down and the girls out of the STEM fields.

No one bothers to explain why white men have allowed Jews and Asians to overrun the system. n fact, east Asians are starting to overrun elite prep schools and universities, which is why they are dropping the private school entrance exams in NYC. Too many Chinese kids are winning places in the schools. We have spent tens of billions on every education fad imaginable and the numbers have not budged. In fact, they may have declined. For some people, that’s a clue that maybe something else is at play.

This first quote from the Teach For America article is amusing. “The phrase closing the achievement gap is the cornerstone of TFA’s general philosophy, public-relations messaging, and training sessions. As a member of the 2011 corps, I was told immediately and often that 1) the achievement gap is a pervasive example of inequality in America, and 2) it is our personal responsibility to close the achievement gap within our classrooms, which are microcosms of America’s educational inequality.”

If the missionary zeal was not clear enough, there’s this. “Although TFA seminars and presentations never explicitly accuse educators of either, the implication is strong within the program’s very structure: recruit high-achieving college students, train them over the summer, and send them into America’s lowest-performing schools to make things right. The subtext is clear: Only you can fix what others have screwed up.”

Youth organizations in Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany had the same premise. The older folks had made a mess of things. The next generation, the young people, they can start fresh as the new model citizen in the new model army. Ladling on a healthy dollop of “trench socialism” gets you an individual who has given over themselves entirely to the cause. Of course, it’s not hard to see how this can get out of hand. Today TFA is helping little black kids read. Tomorrow they overthrowing the state.

Well, maybe they won’t until tomorrow. In the weeks between accepting the offer to join TFA and the start of our training, I was told by e-mail that “as a 2011 corps member and leader, you have a deep personal and collective responsibility to ground everything you do in your belief that the educational inequality that persists along socioeconomic and racial lines is both our nation’s most fundamental injustice and a solvable problem. This mindset,” I was reminded, “is at the core of our Teach For America.”

Anyone familiar with 20th century European history can see what the TFA is doing. It is not quite a cult, but it has the trappings of a mass movement. The people running TFA are trying to build something more than a teacher training program. They want an army of true believers infiltrating the schools. Presumably these young fanatics will one day take up positions of authority and run the education system. The fact that every totalitarian movement aims first at the youth is not coincidence here.

It is the sickness of democracy. With a king, there’s no doubting his authority and legitimacy. His father was king. Alternatively, with a great warrior or general, he earned the spot by killing the enemies of the people. Even a dictator has the legitimacy of force that he uses to maintain power. In democracy, the only reason for anyone to be in charge is they talked the dumbest people into voting for him. Therefore, you need some way to convince people to follow the rules and respect the system.

The trouble is, civic religions quickly turn the country into an ideological state and what soon follows is the fanatics. Unlike the Maoist or Stalinist fanatics, no one is under any illusions about their source of power. In a democracy, the people become convinced they voted for the fanatics. The only way to prevent this is to have an official religion that has a source of authority outside the state. It’s a different form of throne and altar, but it can keep the fanatics under control, at least until the throne kills off the altar.