too busy teaching for america

The New York Times featured a good long article about a study by Doug McAdam and Cynthia Brandt, scheduled for publication in the next issue of Social Forces, which assesses the long-term effects of serving in Teach for America.  McAdam and Brandt find that people who served in Teach for America score higher on measures of their attitudes towards civic engagement.  But unlike Freedom Summer participants, McAdam and Brandt find that on measures of actual civic or political activity, people who served in Teach for America lag behind those who dropped out of or declined acceptance to the program.  Former Teach for America participants even vote at lower rates than those who dropped out or declined acceptance.

I can’t wait to dig into McAdam and Brandt’s analysis but Social Forces hasn’t published the article online yet (or anyway I can’t get it through NYU yet). Meanwhile, two things strike me as significant here.  First, are these findings counterintuitive?  Freedom Summer participant were volunteers.  But Teach for America participants earn salaries, benefits, and postponement of federal student loans payments during their two years in the program.  In other words, Teach for America participants aren’t volunteering, they’re starting careers. According to the Times, Teach for America is the top recruiter at more than 20 colleges and universities. In 2008, 13 percent of the graduating class at Harvard and 25 percent at Spelman applied.  As Rob Reich, an associate professor of political science at Stanford and former Teach for America participant told the Times “Unlike doing Freedom Summer, joining Teach for America is part of climbing up the elite ladder.”

Second, the Times reports that McAdam and Brandt’s study “was done at the suggestion of Wendy Kopp, Teach for America’s founder and president, who disagrees with the findings.”  Kopp had read McAdam’s Freedom Summer and ostensibly expected him to find similarly high degrees of civic or political activity among former Teach for America participants. Setting the findings aside, I think what’s encouraging about the study is that Teach for America was interested in outcomes – not just for the students they teach, but also for the workers who serve.

xmas at the freese family farm

So, given the retail-sector of some key family members, we had Xmas this weekend back on the farm. Because I was in Australia last Xmas, I had a year and a half worth of travel presents to give away, from Taiwan, Australia, and Malawi. In many cases, I had bought a gift knowing I’d give it to somebody without knowing whom. An example would be a stone-carved hippopotomus from Malawi that I was wrapping while my mother sat at the kitchen table: Continue reading “xmas at the freese family farm”

1 in 50 americans living on food stamps alone

If you haven’t seen the recent NYTimes article on Americans living on foodstamps, you should check it out.* According to the Times, one in fifty Americans now lives in a household where the only source of income is a food stamp card (that’s about 6 million people). That means no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay. Just food stamps (and perhaps section 8 housing). Many of these folks seem to be cobbling together benefits by living with family or partners who have some kind of housing benefit or other government subsidy. But I find these numbers astonishing.

“This is craziness,” the Times quotes Representative John Linder (Georgia, R), ranking minority member of the House panel on welfare policy. I agree. But what’s crazier is Linder’s take on it. Continue reading “1 in 50 americans living on food stamps alone”

i understand the $40/month difference, but not the other difference

From CNN.com:

As initially described, customers would pay Apple $30 a month for streaming access to the best of TV. Cable companies charge Americans an average of more than $70 a month for huge bundles of programs, most of which their subscribers never watch and didn’t ask for.

Apple’s service would be more like a streaming music service that offers all the content you want for a flat monthly fee.