Teach for America, a recent piece in the New York Times notes (A Chosen Few Are Teaching for America), has become a high-status program, due in part to the recession. It’s extremely competitive and offers a secure job in a time when there are few jobs to be had, even at the entry level. This is the sort of thing that the Obama administration ought to be putting at the center of the debate over jobs.
I think this is one of those rare opportunities to transform the professional aspirations of an entire generation; the numbers suggest that the program could be three times bigger without loosing status. Most of the problems associated with the program– especially teachers who leave education after their term is over– could be fixed by programs designed to increase teachers salaries and to reduce burnout.
If economists are correct job growth will continue to be slow over the next several years. The poorer school districts need the teachers, and education as a profession needs to be promoted as one of the central occupations of our culture. Or, to use the jargon, as an essential investment in human capital necessary in a post-industrial economy. Ignorance is so 2005.