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An Open Letter to Teach For Canada

Dear Teach For Canada,

How are you doing? I just wanted to take the time to welcome you to Canada's education community..........and also address a few concerns that I have with your program.

You have recently embarked upon the Canadian education landscape hoping to fix education inequality with the work of the 'future leaders of Canada'. There is not much information on your website (http://teachforcanada.ca/), so it is difficult to ascertain as to how you imagine you will use the 'future leaders' to overcome the education gap. I assume, due to your name, that you will be based off of the 'Teach For America' model where you'll throw top graduates from university into remote and difficult school settings after a short period of training. Unfortunately, since you have created this organization, I am worried that you have not understood the failures of the Teach for America program. If you're unfamiliar with this concept, I'll direct you towards educators in the United States to demonstrate how Teach For America has been a frustrating process for those involved in education:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/18/professor-why-teach-for-america-cant-recruit-in-my-classroom/

I doubt that this blog, or any other dissenters towards your education program, will dissuade you from continuing to achieve your goals. It is my hope, that you will read, consider, and critically respond to the following questions and think about how your program either meets or ignores the following:

1. Since you aim to work in remote communities with high Aboriginal populations, how do you view the proposed First Nations Education Act?

2. How will you prepare affluent university graduates with the skills to succeed in a classroom with students of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds?

3. How will a two year placement ensure the sustainable education and support that marginalized students and communities need?

4. Have you considered how recruits will be accepted into these remote communities?

5. Will the recruits receive appropriate training on working, respecting, and incorporating a variety of traditional and youth cultures in the classroom?

6. How will you measure the inequality gap? Are you primarily focused on test scores?

7. Are you familiar with the treaty system and the Federal Governments responsibility for sustainable and long-term education funding?

8. Have you reached out to First Nations communities, leaders, chiefs, and elders to receive input from them?

9. Do you understand that education cannot be measured or understood under a market-based philosophy? Students are not simply quantifiable beings.

10. Will you market your program to graduates as a stepping-stone to future roles in business, government, etc.?



I look forward to your response to these questions. In a recent Globe and Mail article, one of your founders declared that, “The long-term dream is that we will have Teach for Canada fellows sitting at a Cabinet table, sitting in newsrooms, sitting in boardrooms on Bay Street, where they can have an impact on educational inequalities from those vantage points.”. If your aim is to infiltrate the most powerful institutions within our society, then how will you possibly be able to understand that real, empowering, and liberating education happens at the grassroots? It worries me that your priorities, although well intentioned, are going to be even more hurtful to the students, education system, and fellow teachers.


If Teach For Canada undermines the teacher profession and underestimates the type of education needed for marginalized youth, then you will only increase education inequality in Canada. Remember, marginalized youth and communities are not petri dishes for experimentation. Long-term, sustainable, community based education is what's needed. I'm not sure Teach For Canada will be able to achieve that, based on the 'Teach For America' model.


Teaching and education is a life-long profession, not a part-time gig towards personal achievement.


Sincerely,
Dan Scratch

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