My Friends Doing Good Things for Society

my-friends-doing-good-things-for-society

Tristan joined the Peace Corps. Emily did Teach for America. Eric biked across the country building houses for the homeless. And what did I do? I moved to New York like all the other assholes, where I live in a shoebox, drown in dive bars, and complain about the rats and thieves that overrun this city.

To all my friends who are doing good things for society, please stop. You are making me look bad. Maybe not to my parents, who are pleased as punch with this “real job” I’ve managed to hold for a year. Telling their friends I work in advertising sounds a lot better than, “Andrea wants to be a writer/journalist/traveler something.” But this world is a far cry from my naïve, post-graduation Paul Salopek-esque aspirations. It’s like liberal guilt denied.

To make matters worse, I am happy here. Maybe I’m not teaching children to read or building wells or exposing humanitarian injustices, but I am paying off debts and not disappointing my parents.

That’s something to be proud of, right?

Andrea

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9 responses to “My Friends Doing Good Things for Society

  1. I AM PROUD OF YOU. and me too. they may be traveling the world and saving children, but i have a 401k. i mean, for whatever that’s worth.

  2. ShouldButDont

    Yeah. Which isn’t much these days.

    Someday I’ll start the Andrea Foundation, which will give grants to aspiring writers. Until then, I buy the cheap beer. — Andrea

  3. Thank you Ms. Rand.

  4. I could not agree with you more Ayn.

  5. ShouldButDont

    Being an idealist and an optimist all the time is exhausting. — Andrea

  6. ShouldButDont

    Wait, how serious do people think we are about these things?

  7. Who the fuck is Steve?

  8. Alan Greenspan

    Who the fuck is Ayn?

  9. I am seeking a dialogue with current and past Teach for America teachers. I have taught for 14 years in inner-city Houston. When I started teaching, I saw myself as a reformer, as some of Teach for America teachers do. I had some pretty serious success with AP students, and some serious frustration with our regular students. So my experience, to be honest, has been mixed. I want a dialogue about the political behaviors of the Teach For America elite.

    In our city, a former TFA official, now a school board member, has led the charge for beginning to fire teachers based on student test scores. She also opposed allowing teachers to select a single major union representative. After a little research I found this appeared to be a pattern with TFA”s leaders. There seems to be a close relationship between conservatives and the TFA elite.

    This goes back to its origins, when Union Carbide sponsored Wendy Kopp’s original efforts to create Teach For America. A few years before, Union Carbide’s negligence had caused the worst industrial accident in history, in Bhopal, India. The number of casualties was as large as 100,000, and Union Carbide did everything it could to avoid and minimize responsibility after the event.

    A few years later, when TFA faced severe financial difficulties, Ms. Kopp wrote in her book she nearly went to work for the Edison Project, and was all but saved by their financial assistance. The Edison Project, founded by a Tennessee entrepreneur, was an effort to replace public schools with corporate schools. Two brilliant TFA alumni, the founders of KIPP Academy, then joined the Bush’s at the Republican National Convention in 2000. This was vital to Bush, since as Governor he did not really have any genuine education achievements, and he was trying to prove he was a different kind of Republican. I then read the popular magazine articles about Michelle Rhee’s firing of teachers and closing of schools, and then her admission she had gone to far too fast.

    I think you do great work. Ironically, my former mentor works for Ms. Rhee. He saved me in my first year as a teacher in Houston. He was a terrific teacher. I respect and honor your work, as I do my own.

    But your leaders seem to attack the public sector and blame teachers for student failure in order to curry favor with rich conservatives. To be up front, I grew up in a low-income housing project in Mississippi and eventually became a good student, and I am a social democrat. I believe school reform must include better schools, but also health care, stable employment, long-term unemployment benefits, a revitalized union movement, a higher minimum wage, freedom for alternative lifestyles, and affirmative action. Stable families are more able to be ambitious for their kids than economically or emotionally unstable families. Better schools are part of this, but only one part of it. Your leaders seem to have gotten in bed with people who believe the market solves all issues—and that makes the money flow faster. Yet your hard work gives them credibility with the media.

    Ms. Kopp claims to be in the tradition of the civil rights movement, but Martin Luther King would take principled positions—against the Vietnam War and for the Poor Peoples March—even if they alienated powerful people. I would like a dialogue about what I have written here. My e-mail is JesseAlred@yahoo.com.

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